Changes are coming to Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) legislation following a court ruling that concluded it is unconstitutional to only allow Canadians to seek medical assistance to end their lives who are already near death.
In the Northern Health region, 59 individuals used the service in 2019 and since it became legal in June of 2016 a total of 128 people accessed MAiD.
“Those numbers are not final, they are potentially subject to change but unlikely. It is just a caution we are asked to provide,” said Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins.
She added that doctors can refuse to perform a medically assisted death.
“We don’t document who opts out rather we and the other health authorities maintain a list of practitioners who were surveyed and indicated their interest or willingness to participate either as an assessor or a provider of MAiD,” she added.
While the federal government has accepted the near-death requirement must be removed, it is considering if new safeguards should be in place before being able to access Medical Assistance in Dying [MAiD].
A questionnaire is available asking Canadians their thoughts on the ruling and whether or not more safeguards should be added.
Co-chair of the Vancouver chapter of Dying with Dignity Canada Alex Muir said the survey is biased.
“It is good the government is coming forward and asking questions and getting some public input,” he said. “But if you look at the whole safeguard section, they are strongly focused on adding additional safeguards for people. If you read between the lines, they have many safeguards they are asking about and our belief is that there are a lot of safeguards in place and if anything we would want to remove one or two and yet the focus is adding safeguards.”
Muir said some of the proposed ‘hurdles’ such as requiring consultation with medical specialists and imposing a mandatory psychological or psychiatric assessment, would significantly limit access to MAiD.
“By adding these extra steps, you are adding to the time it takes and also access, especially for people in rural areas where there is already a shortage of specialists in these areas. This could become very problematic for giving access to people in those areas.”
Not everyone in the northwest is on board with MAiD or the upcoming changes to the legislation.
Pro-Life Society member and Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor said Canadians should work toward killing the pain and not the patient.
“We oppose the original law that makes it possible for doctors to kill people even with their consent,” he said. “We talk about a slippery slope and we knew once it became a practice it would expand and increase and it didn’t take very long for that to happen.”
The online questionnaire is available until Jan. 27. The federal government has until March 11 to amend the law under the recent court ruling.