Canada’s Senate has given royal assent to a bill that will give more Canadians access to medical assistance in dying,
Under Bill C-7, intolerably suffering Canadians who are not near the natural end of their lives will immediately gain the right to seek medical assistance in dying.
In two years time, persons suffering solely from grievous and irremediable mental illnesses will gain the same right.
Bill C-7 is a direct response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down as unconstitutional part of Ottawa’s previous MAiD law, which said only individuals whose natural deaths were “reasonably foreseeable” could be eligible for MAiD.
The bill carried Wednesday night by a vote of 60-25, with five abstentions.
It passed as the Liberal government was contending with a court-ordered March 26 deadline to pass the legislation.
The bill was the subject of much back and forth between the House of Commons and the Senate about its provisions and limitations.
As well, there was sometimes rancorous debate on the issue–with advocates arguing that the government’s previous MAiD law did not go far enough and excluded too many people while others said the bill went too far and sent a message that the lives of people with disabilities had less value.
Canada made medically-assisted death legal in September 2016.
According to the country’s first annual report on the practice, there were 5,631 medically assisted deaths in Canada in 2019, representing two per cent of all deaths in the country and a 26 per cent increase over such cases in 2018.
From Sept. 2016 until the end of 2019, just under 14,000 Canadians were given a medically-assisted death.
Two-thirds of patients receiving an assisted death cited cancer as the underlying reason, followed by neurological conditions and cardiovascular or respiratory conditions.
With files from The Canadian Press (Joan Bryden)
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