Medical Assistance in Dying: Is Canada Going Too Far, Too Fast?

Event date
17 May 2023
Event time
13:00 - 14:30
Oxford week
TT 4
St Cross Building - White & Case Room

Professor Arthur Schafer, University of Manitoba

This event is co-organised with the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. A recording of this session is now available on the Uehiro Centre's Youtube channel.

Arthur Schafer is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Founding Director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba. For ten years he was Head of the Section of Bio-Medical Ethics in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Manitoba. Professor Schafer has published widely in the fields of moral, social, and political philosophy. He is author of The Buck Stops Here: Reflections on moral responsibility, democratic accountability and military values, and co-editor of Ethics and Animal Experimentation. He is also co-editor of Fragile Freedoms: The Global Struggle for Human Rights.


Should patients who are not at the end of life nevertheless be eligible for a medically-assisted death? Patients whose sole underlying medical disease is a mental disorder? Patients who are no longer competent but whose advance directive requested euthanasia in specified circumstances? Patients who are under 18 years of age?

In June of 2016 the Parliament of Canada passed legislation [Bill C-14] de-criminalizing both euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide [“Medical Assistance in Dying”], subject to several safeguards. One of the eligibility requirements for MAiD - that natural death must be reasonably foreseeable - was subsequently challenged and over-turned. Quebec’s Superior Court found, in Truchon [2019] that restricting MAiD to people at the end of life violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Liberties. In 2021, in accordance with the court ruling in Truchon, the federal government expanded MAiD access [Bill C-7] to include patients suffering intolerably from a grievous and incurable but non-terminal medical condition. Patients whose sole underlying (grievous and incurable) medical condition is a mental disorder might soon become eligible for a physician-assisted death if they meet all the criteria. The pending expansion of MAiD to such patients has generated controversy, as has the proposal that MAiD should be available via advance directive. Some argue that eligibility criteria for an assisted death in Canada are expanding too far, too fast. The main arguments in favour of and against this view will be critically assessed.

Found within

Medical Law and Ethics