Bill C-14 Does Not Go Far Enough to Protect Vulnerable Canadians

April 15, 2016 │ For Immediate Release

With Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), the Government of Canada pushed back from the recommendations in "Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centered Approach," the report of the Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying, which went beyond the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter case, but the Government did not push back far enough. 

On the positive side Bill C-14 only makes medical assistance in dying available to people who are experiencing intolerable suffering and whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.  This language narrows availability to people who are in the end stages of dying.  This criteria serves to protect Canadians who are adjusting to newly acquired conditions and, as a result, may be undergoing a period of weakened resiliency.

The preamble of the Bill recognizes the importance of safeguards to "prevent errors and abuse in the provision of medical assistance in dying" and that "vulnerable persons must be protected from being induced, in moments of weakness, to end their lives."  Regrettably the promise of the Preamble is not borne out by the substance of Bill C-14, which does little to address the concerns about vulnerability that have been raised by the disability community.

The Bill's section addressing safeguards does not deliver important protections that the disability community has called for in the Vulnerable Persons Standard.  In particular, the Bill did not provide for:

  • An assessment of vulnerabilities that may be inducing a person to seek an assisted suicide;
  • An expedited prior review and authorization by a judge or independent body with expertise in the fields of health care, ethics, and law. 

“In the Carter decision, the Supreme Court of Canada gave the Government of Canada two assignments (1) develop a regime to provide dying people access to assisted suicide and (2) protect vulnerable Canadians who at a time of weakness may be influenced to accept medical aid in dying.  Unfortunately, C-14 has some serious gaps when it comes to protecting the vulnerable,” states Rhonda Wiebe, a Co-Chair of CCD’s Ending of Life Ethics Committee.  “Canada must do enough to protect people like me and other Canadians with disabilities who can be made vulnerable by both our health conditions and our social and economic circumstances”.

"We appreciate Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould's comments that Canada will meet its Charter obligations with regard to medical assistance in dying.  We remind the Minister these Charter obligations are inclusive of robust safeguards to protect vulnerable Canadians," states Dean Richert, Co-Chair of the Ending of Life Ethics Committee.


For More Information Contact:

James Hicks, National Coordinator - Tel: 343-291-1118
Tony Dolan, CCD Chairperson - Tel: 902-569-2817
Dean Richert, Co-Chair Ending of Life Ethics Committee - Tel: 204-951-6273;
Rhonda Wiebe, Co-Chair Ending of Life Ethics Committee - Tel: 204-779-4493