Canadian lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to broaden the country’s assisted dying law to people who are intolerably suffering but not close to death. The new law was triggered by a successful legal challenge, brought by two people with degenerative illnesses, against Canada’s previous requirement that patients seeking an assisted death had to prove their natural death was ‘reasonably foreseeable’.  My Death, My Decision – which campaigns for a similar assisted dying law in the UK – has strongly welcomed the move, and called on UK politicians to bring about a similar legislative change here.

The law means people in Canada with degenerative illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, or with locked in syndrome will now be able to request help to die, provided they have reached a clear decision free from coercion. 

Under the new legislation, additional safeguards will also come into force, which among other things will require people with intolerable suffering to undergo counselling and a 90 day assessment period before they can be given help to die. 

On average assisted dying counted for 1.89% of deaths in Canada in 2019. 

Canada’s new law will bring it into line with other countries where assisted dying for both the terminally ill and intolerably suffering is allowed – including Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. 

Among other changes, a clause enabling assisted dying for people with irremediable psychiatric suffering will also come into effect in two years, allowing for a joint parliamentary committee to convene and recommend new safeguards. Canada’s government also intends to form an expert medical panel to provide further advice within a year of the legislation passing.   

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore commented: 

‘This is a hugely significant moment in the campaign for assisted dying, and a momentous victory for the rights of people intolerably suffering. Being able to die, with dignity, and in a manner of your own choice must be understood as a fundamental human right. So restricting that freedom to people with specific life expectancies cannot be right, as life expectancy in itself does not tell us anything about someone’s suffering.’ 

‘Canada’s move reflects the growing international consensus on that point, and we hope politicians here will take note from their peers and listen to the increasing clamour for change in the UK by instigating an inquiry into our law.’ 

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk or phone 07396694470. 

Read Canada’s new C-7 Law on assisted dying: https://parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/bill/C-7/third-reading 

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.