MAiD in Canada: Cautionary Tale or Model?

In the second episode of the QUT Global Law, Science and Technology Seminar Series for 2023, co-hosted by the Australian Centre for Health Law Research (ACHLR), Professor Jocelyn Downie described the legal status of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada and explained what is happening in practice.

Abstract: “Canadians are getting medical assistance in dying (MAiD) for poverty.”
“Canada is considering allowing MAiD for severely disabled newborns.”
“We have not witnessed a slippery slope in Canada, we have fallen off a cliff.”

If true, it would be reasonable to think that Canada’s MAiD system is a cautionary tale against decriminalization of assisted dying. But are these statements true?

In this presentation, Professor Jocelyn Downie described the legal status of MAiD in Canada – the eligibility criteria and the procedural safeguards in the Criminal Code as well as the provincial/territorial laws and policies and regulatory practice standards. She also explained what is actually happening in practice — who is requesting MAiD and who is accessing MAiD, what are the reasons for requesting MAiD, and what access to palliative care and disability supports have people who access MAiD had? Finally, the debates that are currently occupying law-makers as we look to the future were outlined — MAiD for persons with mental disorders as their sole underlying medical condition, MAiD requests made in advance of loss of decision-making capacity, and MAiD for mature minors. The seminar concluded that, far from being a cautionary tale, Canada is a model for the decriminalization of MAiD.


Guest presenter

Professor Jocelyn DownieJocelyn Downie is a Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Dalhousie University (and an Adjunct Professor at QUT). Her work on end-of-life law and policy includes: Special Advisor to the Canadian Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; author of Dying Justice: A Case for the Decriminalizing Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada (winner of the Abbyann Day Lynch Medal in Bioethics from the Royal Society of Canada); and member of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision-Making, the plaintiffs’ legal team in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group on Physician-Assisted Dying, and the Canadian Council of Academies Expert Panel on Medical Assistance in Dying. Most recently, she was on the federal Task Group that developed a Model Practice Standard and Advice to the Profession on MAiD.

Professor Downie was named a member of the Order of Canada in part in recognition of her work advocating for high-quality, end-of-life care. She is also a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

About the series

The QUT Global Law, Science and Technology Seminar Series aims to bring together national and international speakers who will explore the personal, societal and governance dimensions of solving real world problems which are influenced by, and through the interactions of science, technology and the law.

The series will host speakers who think about ‘technology’ and ‘science’ as broadly construed to refer to methods of framing or interacting with the world, and that enable the critical and imaginative questioning of the technical, science, environmental and health dimensions of law and life.

Previous Seminars

Write A Comment