Reaction to the adoption of Bill C-7

Image from the Department of Justice of Canada's website

Following this cold shower,
reasons to stay mobilized

A joint reaction by Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia 

On Wednesday 17th March, 2021, the Senate voted to adopt the latest version of Bill C-7, proposed by a majority of the House of Commons.  This means that the new law expanding medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada is now in effect, as described in this press release from the Department of Justice Canada.

For all those who have worked so hard to block the expansion of MAiD, this news is like a cold shower.  It further reinforces the dogma of autonomy at the expense of the real dignity of individuals. The temptation to throw in the towel in the face of legalized and now expanded MAiD could be strong for some. What’s the point of continuing to mobilize when the dice seem to be cast in advance?

Here are a few reasons why we should keep our heads high and continue to stand together against the torrent of MAiD:

– The fight against Bill C-7 has demonstrated beyond any doubt that opposition to MAiD is not a partisan issue. Voices from both the left and the right of the political spectrum have been heard expressing their concerns about C-7, including the removal of the end-of-life criteria. We have enjoyed working with so many disability experts, people with disabilities, Aboriginal leaders and others who have spoken out over the past few months. Important relationships have developed and we must continue to build on them.

– Within the next 30 days, a parliamentary review of the MAiD legislation in Canada will begin. We will need to follow closely the progress of these discussions which will focus on the “eligibility of mature minors, advance directives, mental illness, palliative care and protection of Canadians with disabilities”.

– We won a minor victory: the final version of the bill excluded advance directives for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Pressure will continue at the provincial level to open up a new loophole in the near future, for those who will have signed advance directives indicating the circumstances under which they would wish to obtain MAiD. In addition, advocates for greater access to euthanasia are already telling patients that Bill C-7 would allow Alzheimer’s patients to apply for and obtain MAiD at stage 4 of their disease (on a scale of 7), before they become incapacitated. This is a dramatic solution that would result in the premature death of people who could live a happy and dignified life in the remaining stages of their disease if they are well supported.

– The relaxation of the guidelines for administering a lethal injection to persons at the end of life and the establishment of new protocols for persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable are both happening in a very particular context. By many accounts, the current guidelines are not always respected. To date, we are not aware of any disciplinary action against such misconduct. We will have to be particularly careful to ensure that the promised guidelines are at least respected.

– We cannot leave the field open to promoters of medical aid in dying as a solution to the physical and psychological suffering of patients. Already, some people consider “tiredness of living” as a sufficient reason to ask for this so-called “end of life care”. We must work to promote real care which is adapted to all types of suffering. To achieve this, our governments will need to work hard to improve mental health care, support for people with disabilities (employment, housing, etc.), support for people with chronic illnesses of all ages, home-based care and support for caregivers. There is no shortage of challenges!

In doing this, we will be able to return to the fundamental suicide prevention campaign messaging and remind all those who are contemplating death: your life is important and we will be with you to accompany you in the most difficult moments. Despite your fears and your suffering, your dignity remains intact.

Thank you for your support throughout the debates surrounding Bill C-7. Our mobilization continues.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to it,

Mr. Alex King
Chair of the board
Living with Dignity


Dr. Catherine Ferrier
PresidentPhysicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia