Dear Mr. Thomas:
Thank you for your correspondence, sent on behalf of Secular Connexion Séculière, concerning medical assistance in dying. My colleague the Honourable Dr. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, has also forwarded to me a copy of your correspondence on this issue. I regret the lengthy delay in responding.
In response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), our government has recognized the importance of implementing a federal framework that takes into account both personal autonomy and the need to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.
To this end, as you may know, on April 14, 2016, I introduced in the House of Commons Bill C‑14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying), which received Royal Assent and came into force on June 17, 2016. This legislation, which was informed by extensive consultations with individuals, groups, and experts from Canada and around the world, now gives patients who are on an irreversible decline towards death, and are suffering intolerably from a grievous and irremediable medical condition, the choice of a medically assisted death.
The Act has revised the Criminal Code to exempt physicians, nurse practitioners, and other individuals who provide, or help to provide, medical assistance in dying from otherwise applicable criminal offences, and was developed in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The new federal regime ensures a consistent approach to medical assistance in dying across Canada while recognizing that the provinces and territories have jurisdiction over the delivery of health care services. To this end, Minister Philpott has announced our government’s commitment to work closely with the provinces and territories to put in place a system that helps connect willing health care providers to patients who qualify for medical assistance in dying, while respecting the personal convictions of health care providers.
Please be assured that several robust safeguards were enacted as part of the criminal law regime to ensure that the patient is providing informed consent, and to protect against errors and abuses in the provision of medical assistance in dying. A monitoring system will also be developed by Minister Philpott in regulations, following consultations with the provinces and territories. Further information about this legislation can be found at www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/ad-am/index.html.
You may be interested to know that, under the Act, one or more independent studies must take place on the issues of mature minors, advance requests for medical assistance in dying, and requests where mental illness is the sole underlying condition. Minister Philpott and I will initiate this process no later than six months after the Act comes into force.
Thank you again for writing.
The Honourable Jody Wilson‑Raybould, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Dear Mr. Thomas: