Bill C-14: Are you eligible for medically-assisted death?

On June 17, 2016, Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), received Royal Assent. Those interested in or affected by medical assistance in dying (“MAID”) should take note that the Bill sets out a number of eligibility requirements which must be met in order for an individual to qualify for and receive MAID.

Eligibility Requirements
1. Eligible for Health Services: The individual must be eligible for health services funded by a Canadian government agency. This requirement generally disqualifies visitors to Canada, though those who would be eligible for Canadian health services but have yet to meet a minimum waiting period or minimum period of residence are eligible for MAID, provided they meet all other requirements.
2. Competent: The individual must be competent, in that they are able to make their own health care decisions.
3. Adult: The individual must be at least 18 years old.
4. Grievous and Irremediable Medical Condition: The individual must have a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition, which means:

    a) the condition is serious and incurable;
    b) the individual is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;
    c) the condition or state of decline causes the individual enduring and intolerable physical or psychological suffering;
    d) the individual’s suffering cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable; and
    e) the individual’s natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all medical circumstances.

5. Voluntary: The request for MAID must be voluntary, and must not be a result of any external pressure.
6. Informed Consent: The individual must provide their informed consent after having been informed of other means of relief, including palliative care.

Constitutional Challenge to Bill C-14

A constitutional challenge launched on June 27, 2016 by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and an individual named Julia Lamb seeks to challenge the eligibility requirements. Ms. Lamb, a Chilliwack resident, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. While the neurodegenerative disease is progressive and causes her enduring and intolerable suffering, Ms. Lamb’s condition is not “grievous and irremediable” since her natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. The outcome of this challenge has yet to be determined.

For further inquiries on this topic and advice on planning issues surrounding medical assistance in dying, please contact Emily Clough or one of the lawyers in our Wills, Estates + Trusts Practice Group.