Email correspondence received from the Ministry of the Attorney General dated May 21, 2021:

Dear Ms. Beck: [note that Ms. Beck did not send our NACN-Canada letter]

Thank you for your correspondence, sent on behalf of the National Association of Catholic Nurses-Canada, concerning medical assistance in dying. I regret the delay in responding.

The Government of Canada understands that matters related to medical assistance in dying touch on deeply held values. I appreciate the time you have taken to share your views on this issue.

As you may know, Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), received Royal Assent on March 17, 2021, and immediately came into force. This legislation was informed by consultations with Canadians, the provinces and territories, Indigenous groups, key stakeholders, experts, and practitioners.

Under the Act, a person who wishes to receive medical assistance in dying must have a serious and incurable illness, disease, or disability; be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and experience enduring and intolerable suffering. The Act responds to the Truchon decision of the Superior Court of Quebec by removing the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medical assistance in dying. It also creates two sets of procedural safeguards to be followed in assessing a request, based on whether or not a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable.

The amendments require practitioners to ensure that adequate time and expertise are devoted to the eligibility assessment of persons whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. Furthermore, practitioners must take steps to ensure that such persons have been informed of and given serious consideration to available and appropriate options to relieve their suffering.

In addition, eligible persons whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable are now able to enter into a written arrangement with their practitioner to waive the requirement for final consent if they lose capacity before their chosen date to receive medical assistance in dying.

It is important to note that nothing in the law compels a health care provider or an institution to provide medical assistance in dying or refer a patient to another health care provider. The law expressly recognizes that everyone has freedom of conscience and religion under section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Matters related to the obligations of health care professionals to provide services, including referrals, to which they conscientiously object, whether medical assistance in dying or any other service, fall under provincial jurisdiction.

I would like to assure you that our government will continue to work closely with the provinces and territories to support the implementation of Canada’s new medical assistance in dying law. We will also work with provincial and territorial partners to enhance disability support.

Thank you again for writing.

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada