Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison voices support for removing barriers that limit access to medical assistance in dying for Canadians. (Photo courtesy Elise Cote)

Greater Victoria MP supports removing barriers to accessing medically assisted death in Canada

New Democrats advocate for removal of requirement that death be imminent to access MAiD

The federal NDP is calling for swift action to address the issues with the criteria for accessing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada.

Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke Member of Parliament and NDP Justice Critic, Randall Garrison, has voiced support for changing the legislation saying the party has an opportunity to reverse the “restrictive legislation” and “alleviate the suffering of Canadians.”

MAiD became legal in Canada in June 2016 and legislation has determined the criteria detailing who is eligible to choose to end their lives with medical assistance.

In September 2019, the Superior Court of Quebec struck down the condition that requires a person to be near the end of their life to access MAiD. The court concluded that limiting access based on these criteria is unconstitutional.

READ ALSO: Canada wants feedback on medical assistance in dying legislation

While the ruling only applies in Quebec, the Canadian government has accepted the ruling and committed to reviewing the legislation in response to the declaration that the current MAiD framework is unconstitutional.

On Jan. 13, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, the Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, announced public consultations would be conducted to allow Canadians to weigh in on the matter.

At the time, Hadju acknowledged Canadians opting for MAiD are in diverse situations that often include prolonged suffering. “Accessing medical assistance to die raises questions about how a person’s autonomy to make this choice is respected while their safety is protected,” Hadju said.

The public consultation took place online and responses were accepted until Jan. 27.

A separate poll by Ipsos surveyed 3,500 Canadians and more than 70 per cent of respondents supported removing the requirement that a person be near death to qualify for MAiD.

READ ALSO: Strong support for expanding access to medically assisted dying: poll

After meetings with Lametti and Hajdu at the end of January, Garrison noted feeling “optimistic” that the Liberal party will work with his party to do away with “unnecessary barriers that fail to put patients first.”

The Superior Court of Quebec’s ruling will go into effect on March 11 unless the court grants an extension.

– With files from the Canadian Press

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