Bill in Canada would allow euthanasia by advanced directive, waiving final consent

Maine, Dignity in Dying UK, euthanasia

One Canadian lawmaker is proposing a new bill that would yet again expand the country’s assisted suicide law, known as Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD), which went into effect in 2016. 

Bill S-248, introduced by Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin, would amend Canada’s criminal code with two provisions aimed at further loosening restrictions on euthanasia. The first would “permit an individual whose death is not reasonably foreseeable to enter into a written arrangement to receive medical assistance in dying on a specified day if they lose the capacity to consent to receiving medical assistance in dying prior to that day.”

The second would “permit an individual who has been diagnosed with a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability to make a written declaration to waive the requirement for final consent when receiving medical assistance in dying if they lose the capacity to consent.”

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The proposed bill also includes a provision that would negate any advanced consent if “a person demonstrates, by words, sounds or gestures” his or her “refusal to have the substance administered or resistance to its administration.” According to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, this provision is designed to avoid a notorious instance in The Netherlands where an elderly woman who expressed a change of heart about assisted suicide was ignored. Instead, the physician administered a sedative in her coffee and, after that did not calm the woman, had her family hold the woman down while she was forcibly euthanized.

“S-248 contravenes the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision which limited MAiD to competent people,” Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, noted in a blog post.  “Bill S-248 and the recent push by the Quebec College of Physicians to approve infant euthanasia, undermine that a person needs to be able to request or consent to euthanasia.”

As Live Action News reported, not only has the Quebec College of Physicians pushed for euthanasia in cases where infants have “grave deformations” where life expectancy is “basically nil,” some parents have been seeking MAiD for their babies despite palliative care and other medical treatment options.

Schadenberg noted that Canada’s expansion of euthanasia to people with mental illness, under Bill C-7 enacted in March 2021, already eroded the requirement for consent by allowing “a doctor or nurse practitioner to lethally inject a person who is incapable of consenting if that person was previously approved for assisted death.” He also noted that Bill C-7 “removed the requirement in the law that a person’s natural death be reasonably foreseeable in order to qualify for assisted death.”

Since Bill C-7 was enacted, many vulnerable individuals with non-terminal illnesses have been affected. In September, a Canadian woman petitioned Ontario’s health ministry to ask that her son’s approved request for assisted suicide be overturned. A physician approved her son for MAiD after he was diagnosed with diabetes and depression. Another Canadian mother related the tragic story of her son who was euthanized last December after experiencing depression, as reported by Live Action News. In September, a disabled Canadian man announced that he was seeking assisted suicide because he does not receive enough financial assistance to cover his expenses.

Still, Schadenberg urged Canadians to oppose S-248. “Contact the Senators and contact your Member of Parliament. Tell them that Canada has expanded MAiD beyond what was approved by the Supreme Court of Canada, Carter decision and that euthanasia without consent is too dangerous and beyond what should be considered tolerable.”

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