An open letter to our Prime Minister

Dear Mr. Trudeau:

In its proposed Bill C-14, the Government of Canada introduces a vague criterion for eligibility to medical assistance in dying, a criterion which is nowhere found in the landmark Supreme Court decision to which the legislation responds. The requirement that death must be “reasonably foreseeable” in order to qualify for medical assistance in dying lacks clarity. This requirement may prevent those who face grievous, intolerable and irremediable suffering but whose death is not imminent from exercising their constitutional right. In doing so, it would shift unduly the burden of defining what is intended by this criterion through lengthy court battles to a person whose right potentially may have been abrogated.

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Photo courtesy of CBC/Reuters

The Government of Canada must not place this burden on people whose intolerable suffering is the very reason for this legislation. That’s why we are calling on the Government of Canada to seek clarification from the Supreme Court of Canada in a reference to determine whether or not the requirement at 241.2 (2) (d) of Bill C-14 that a patient’s death within a period of time is not too remote is consistent with Carter v. Canada.

A reference to the Supreme Court in this matter has two significant advantages. It brings clarity in a timely fashion. By leaving the meaning of ‘reasonably foreseeable’ to be defined by the courts with the potential for appeals means such clarity could escape us for decades. Physicians and other health professionals deserve clarity in considering requests for medical assistance in dying. Placing the burden of decisions to permit medical assistance in dying on health professionals without sufficient clarity introduces the risk that many will opt to not grant the right to such assistance.

Imagine for a moment living with insufferable pain, without the autonomy to move, swallow or speak, and with fatigue that makes even the smallest task overwhelming. For some, with very progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, such a life is intolerable.

The MS Society of Canada respects and values the autonomy of all persons with MS in making decisions that affect the quality and outcome of their lives. That includes the choice to live a full and rich life in dignity in a place of one’s choosing with adequate and appropriate supports, surrounded by loved ones. And the choice to seek medical assistance to end one’s life, a right granted to Canadians by the Supreme Court of Canada in February 2015.

The choice to be free of suffering, to peacefully die with the assistance of medical professionals, should not be taken away from those who are in greatest need of the choice because of lack of clarity in the legislation. Their suffering is cruel enough.

Sincerely yours,

Valerie Hussey, C.M., Chair, Board of Directors

Yves Savoie, President & CEO

  1. Avatar
    Lori Batchelor

    While I applaud the MS Society of Canada’s stance on assisted dying, I am extremely frustrated by their lack of advocacy for treatment of angioplasty for CCSVI. This treatment improved my quality of life immensely, along with many others. I find it ironic and hypocritical that they speak out loudly for medical assistance in dying but won’t fight for the ONLY treatment found to have significant improvement in symptoms attributed to MS.

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    Kathleen Reid

    As I have MS I am in full support of ending my life when the pain is too much. I wish to live and happy life and once the pain becomes too much I want to have the right to end my life with peace and happiness. Medicine doesn’t work for everyone and I have struggled for 10 years fighting insurance companies to cover the bare minimums, and unable to obtain the medicines my Doctor has prescribed. Living in Canada with a painful disease is not as easy as it should be.

    • Avatar

      I hear you, I am in the same position as you. I was diagnosed with ms in 2012, and 5 years later I am confined to a wheelchair unable to walk, to wash myself, to dress myself, use the washroom by myself, make myself something to eat, comb my own hair. I have no quality of life. I am a 46 year old living in a 96 year old’s body.

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    My life is similar to your’s Sylvie. The government is inhumane to have added the 4th criteria re death “reasonably foreseeable” in Bill C-14 knowing cruel debilitating neurological diseases do not come with an expiration date but pro-longed intolerable sufferance.

    If it isn’t omitted, the gov’t will in effect be encouraging those suffering greatly to take matters into their own hands… may have no choice but go to a more compassionate country like Switzerland.

    This would be an expensive and physically extremely difficult journey. What a shame Canada, is this not the land of the free ??

  4. Avatar
    Thank you for your time.

    My name is Wendy have been living with MS recently I’ve been living with unbearable pain for over eight months now I have seen countless doctors I did do breast treatments both medical and nonmedical treatments for my MS I would strongly support medical assistance and Dianne once all options have been investigated and I can no longer live each and every day in excruciating pain this is no way to live and this is not how I am going to live if this progresses to living on meds that alter my abilities and buy thought processes I strongly support medical assistance and dying for MS patients who suffer each and every day as I do.
    Thank you for your time.

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