On Friday, June 17 Bill C-14 passed in the House of Commons and the Senate. The law decriminalizes medical assistance in dying (MAID) under the circumstances described below.
The criteria for a person to be eligible for accessing MAID is:
- eligible for government-funded health services in Canada
- has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, which is defined as:
- at least 18 years old and capable of making decisions with respect to his or her health
- the person has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;
- the person is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
- the illness, disease or disability or the state of decline causes enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable and cannot be relieved under conditions that the person considers acceptable; and
- natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of the medical circumstances, although a prognosis as to the specific length of time remaining is not necessary.
5. has made a voluntary request without external pressure
6. gives informed consent
Further definitions of terms:
Advanced state of irreversible decline in capability: When combined with the requirements that death be reasonably foreseeable and that the person be suffering intolerably, the requirement to be in an advanced state of irreversible decline ensures that medical assistance in dying would be available to those who are in an irreversible decline towards death, even if that death is not anticipated in the short term. This approach to eligibility gives individuals who are in decline toward death the autonomy to choose their preferred dying process.
Reasonably foreseeable death: In the context of medical assistance in dying, it means that there is a real possibility of the patient’s death within a period of time that is not too remote. In other words, the patient would need to experience a change in the state of their medical condition so that it has become fairly clear that they are on an irreversible path toward death, even if there is no clear or specific prognosis. Each person’s circumstances are unique, and life expectancy depends on the nature of the illness, and the impacts of other medical conditions or health-related factors such as age or frailty. Physicians and nurse practitioners have the necessary expertise to evaluate each person’s unique circumstances and can effectively judge when a person is on a trajectory toward death. While medical professionals do not need to be able to clearly predict exactly how or when a person will die, the person’s death would need to be foreseeable in the not too distant future.30