The Expansion of Medical Assistance in Dying in the COVID-19 Pandemic Era and Beyond Implications for Vulnerable Canadians

Main Article Content

Sera Whitelaw
Trudo Lemmens
Harriette G.C. Van Spall

Keywords

Medical Assistance in Dying, Equity, Social Justice, COVID-19

Abstract

In 2015, the Canadian parliament passed a law permitting adults to request Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) when they have a grievous, irremediable medical condition that causes unbearable suffering and their natural death is reasonably foreseeable. Following a constitutional challenge, a Quebec lower court, ruled in the Truchon vs. Canada AG case that the restriction to a reasonably foreseeable death is an unjustifiable impingement on the right to life, liberty, and security of the person and the right to equality. In response, the government expanded the MAiD law in March 2021 through Bill C-7 to include those who are not approach-ing their natural death. Bill C-7 is a potentially harmful approach to justice for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled, or those with chronic illnesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted serious problems with how we care for the vulnerable members of our society. In this article, we explore what has gone wrong and what has raised serious concerns, while proposing potential options to consider when developing new laws, systems, and processes to improve societal equity.


Résumé
En 2015, le gouvernement fédéral a adopté une nouvelle loi permettant aux adultes de demander l’aide médicale à mourir (AMM) dans certaines circonstances, notamment les problèmes de santé graves et irrémédiables qui provoquent des souffrances insupportables et dont la mort naturelle est raisonnablement prévisible. À la suite d’une contestation constitutionnelle, un tribunal de première instance de la province de Québec a statué, dans l’affaire Truchon c. Procureur général du Canada, que la restriction à une mort raisonnablement prévisible constitue une atteinte injustifiable au droit à la vie, à la liberté et à la sécurité de la personne. En réponse à ce verdict, le gouvernement a modifié la loi sur l’AMM en mars 2021 par l’intermédiaire du projet de loi C-7 pour y inclure les personnes chez qui la mort n’est pas dans un avenir prévisible. Le projet de loi C-7 est une approche de la justice potentiellement préjudiciable aux groupes vulnérables, comme les personnes âgées, handicapées ou atteintes de maladies chroniques. La pandémie de COVID-19 a mis en lumière de graves problèmes concernant la façon dont on prend soin des membres vulnérables de notre société. Dans cet article, nous explorons ce qui a mal fonctionné et ce qui a suscité de vives inquiétudes, tout en proposant des options possibles à envisager lors de l’élaboration de nouvelles lois, de nouveaux systèmes et de nouveaux processus pour améliorer l’équité sociale.

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