The Importance of the Right to Palliative Care in Light of Medical Assistance in Dying

  • February 14, 2017
  • Kimberly Srivastava

As indicated in our previous blog post, the Court Challenges Program is being reinstated. You can read David Baker’s comments on the CCP here (link). This is great news for bakerlaw!

You may have previously read about our open letter calling for a national right to palliative care in Canada (link).

The case is in response to the Carter v Canada decision which resulted in the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) legislation that came into effect last year. The Court in Carter decided that people should have access to MAID so as to prevent unnecessary suffering at the end stages of life. All governments in Canada have confirmed that MAID will be treated as an insured service that will be universally available at public expense from coast-to-coast. This begs the question though: what about those who are suffering but don’t want to end their lives? What option under the Canada Health Act and/or the provincial/territorial medi-care is available for them?

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has reported that over 70% of Canadians do not have access to adequate palliative care (link). This means that for those who are suffering but don’t want to die, they are also likely to lack palliative care support at the end of their lives. In Canada, there is no right to palliative care because the Canada Health Act does not cover palliative care as an essential form of medical care.

A recent National Post article cited that the new MAID law is likely to result in millions of dollars of savings (link). You can read a commentary by former bakerlaw client Audrey Cole about the article here (link).

The obvious danger associated with this study is that because of the cost savings involved, some may be pressured to end their lives rather than seek palliative care support simply because MAID is the cheaper option. This danger also presents an opportunity. If those who wish to end their lives through MAID, which results in millions of dollars saved, that money can be reinvested into improving access to and quality of palliative care in Canada. Bakerlaw is ready to litigate the issue that palliative care should be a right for all Canadians. The government has now recognized a right to die during the end stages of life, there should also be recognition for the right to live during the end stages of life. All Canadians should have the right to choose how they want to live the end stages of their life.

Stay tuned for updates on this case.


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