Thursday, March 24, 2022

In an commentary for Policy Options, Dr. Ramona Coelho, psychiatrist John Maher, Dr. K. Sonu Gaind, Chief of Psychiatry Humber River Hospital, Professor and Governor, University of Toronto and Faculty of Law and Dalla Lana School of Public Health Professor Trudo Lemmens, Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy, write the the Trudeau government rushed MAiD legislation for political reasons and the law’s defenders invoke the right to equality while ignoring serious dangers: 

With respect to jurisprudence, let’s be clear: A single Quebec Superior Court judge ruled in 2019 in Truchon v Canada that the previous Canadian and Quebec MAiD laws were unconstitutional because they required people requesting MAiD to be in a state where death was “reasonably foreseeable” (federal) or where the person was at the “end of life” (Quebec). The lower court decision was not appealed despite what we think are compelling legal and policy reasons to do so. Therefore, there is no higher court endorsement of the reasoning behind the decision.

Ottawa’s answer to the Quebec court was Bill C-7, which took effect March 2021. It no longer restricted MAID to situations where death is “reasonably foreseeable,” and introduced a new de facto access track for disabled Canadians whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable.” Additionally, the Trudeau government suddenly reversed its previous commitment to exclude MAiD for mental illness alone, with NDP and Conservatives in clear opposition. It accepted a Senate-introduced “sunset clause,” which delayed MAiD for the sole reason of mental illness until March 2023. We believe the decision to rush through the legislation was political and failed to consider the unique dangers of expanding MAiD outside the end-of-life context and particularly for reasons of mental illness.

Co-authors Dr. Coelho practises family medicine and was an expert witness before the House and Senate committees examining Bill C-7. She is a founding member of Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians. Maher is a psychiatrist with the Barrie & South Georgian Bay Assertive Community Treatment Team and president of the Ontario Association for ACT & FACT (OAAF). He is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health

Read the full commentary at Policy Options