4 Key Changes to Medical Assistance in Dying Legislation

medical assistance dying legislation

On March 17, 2021, changes to Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation came into effect and is laid out in the Criminal Code. According to the Government of Canada website, the new law responds to feedback gathered during January and February 2020 discussions with over 300,000 Canadians, experts, practitioners, stakeholders, provinces and territories.

Eligibility for MAID

With respects to eligibility for MAID, the basic requirements for an individual requesting MAID includes the following:

Be 18 years of age or older;

Be capable of making decisions with respect to their health;

Be eligible for health services funded by the federal government, a province or a territory;

Make a voluntary request for MAID that is not influenced by external pressure;

Give informed consent after being informed of the options available to relieve their suffering; and

Have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, as defined in subsection 241.2(2) of the Criminal Code.

These requirements are similar between the previous version and the current one and are outlined in section 241.2(1) of the Criminal Code. Now, what is the new legislation and how has it changed?

4 Important changes to MAID legislation:

  1. With the legislation that is now in place, it is not required for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable for them to be eligible for MAID. As such, people whose natural death are not reasonably foreseeable may now be eligible for MAID.
  2. Subsection 241.2(3) is a list of safeguards and apply to people whose natural death are reasonably foreseeable. This list of safeguards are actions that a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner must do before providing MAID to an individual. The safeguards under subsection 241.2(3) of the Criminal Code largely remained the same, but there are now new changes. In particular, the new legislation only requires one independent witness to sign the patient’s written request for MAID (as opposed to the two that was previously required) and the previous requirement of a 10-day reflection period between the date MAID is requested and the date MAID is provided was taken out.
  3. For people whose natural death are not foreseeable, there is now new legislation under subsection 241.2(3.1) of the Criminal Code to act as safeguards. The safeguards and changes mentioned above also apply, but there are also four additional safeguards. In particular, there is a minimum 90-day assessment period, a second eligibility assessment by a practitioner with expertise in the condition that is causing the person’s suffering, and two clarifications on informed consent.
  4. Changes were also put in place for data collection and monitoring in order to provide a better understanding of MAID in Canada. As such, data is supposed to be collected from all assessments following an individual’s request for MAID.

These changes are now in effect, but it may take time to see the full impact these changes have on individuals applying for MAID.