News Release

College recommends amendments to legislation to facilitate and clarify patient access to medical assistance in dying

May 10, 2016

On Tuesday, May 10, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario will present before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to outline areas of support and concern with Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying).

“The College supports many of the aspects of the Bill,” says College President, Dr. Joel Kirsh. “However, we are concerned that some elements included in the Bill will unfairly impede patient autonomy and access to care.”

Highlights from the College’s submission are as follows:

  • The requirements for independence of witnesses and practitioners are so stringent that they will prevent many eligible patients from accessing MAID.
  • The requirement that patients must be 18 years of age and capable in order to access MAID is inconsistent with Ontario’s consent legislation where patients are considered capable if they are able to understand and appreciate relevant information and the consequences of making a decision about their medical care;
  • The definition of ‘grievous and irremediable medical condition’ appears to be inconsistent with the Carter decision, and as a result, will cause confusion amongst physicians and the public;
  • The language for the 15-day reflection period should be broadened to enable practitioners to shorten the time of this period for reasons related to patient suffering; and
  • To ensure access to care is not compromised, the College strongly recommends that, where practitioners decline to provide MAID, they be required to provide an effective referral and that this requirement be enshrined in provincial and territorial law.

“Bill C-14 represents an important step forward in establishing the framework necessary to legalize MAID in Canada,” said Dr. Kirsh. “It is essential that patient autonomy and choice remain at the forefront of discussions and the College encourages the federal government to continue working with the provinces and territories to facilitate a pan-Canadian approach to ensure access to medical assistance in dying to eligible patients, no matter where they reside in Canada.”
 
The College’s response to Bill C-14 can be found in the full submission to the committee.