The Canadian government is introducing a law to make medically assisted death available to people who are not terminally ill. If passed, the bill will allow Canadians with degenerative illnesses like cerebral palsy to seek medically assisted death.
Health minister Patty Hajdu said the proposal will protect vulnerable people while giving Canadians autonomy. It was introduced in parliament on Monday and has cross-party support.
The legislation was precipitated by a 2019 Quebec Superior Court decision that struck down the requirement for patients to prove their natural death was "reasonably foreseeable" in order to seek to terminate their life.
Justice Christine Baudouin said the requirement infringed on the "life, liberty and security of the person" and was thus unconstitutional. She sided with the plaintiffs, Nicole Gladu, 74, and Jean Truchon, 51, in the high-profile case last autumn.
Both plaintiffs had degenerative illnesses that had worsened to the point that they had lost all their autonomy. They experienced persistent and irremediable suffering, their lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard argued. Truchon had cerebral palsy, and Gladu had post-polio syndrome, and both wanted medical assistance to end their lives.
However, advocates for people with disabilities, including the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, have said the court decision sent the message that "having a disability is a fate worse than death".
They urged the government to appeal the Quebec court ruling, which it declined to do. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government brought forward the assisted death bill on Monday.
It will create a two-track system for determining a person's eligibility. One track for people who are terminally ill, and one track for people who are not. Patients in both tracks must prove they are facing "intolerable" suffering.
The bill will explicitly exclude eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness. The minority government will need the support of parliamentarians from other parties to pass the bill.
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