Webinar Summary: A year in review: Access to choice after Bill C-7

On Thursday, December 16, 2021, CEO Helen Long presented a year in review – the last webinar of the year! During this webinar, audience members learned about Dying With Dignity Canada’s accomplishments in 2021 and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2022.

If you prefer to view this content in video format, you can access the recording here.

What were the major accomplishments in 2021?

Ensuring eligibility and access to assisted dying through legislation that complies with the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The passage of Bill C-7 on March 17, 2021, was a huge step forward for end-of-life rights in Canada.

Included in Bill C-7 was the removal of the ‘reasonably foreseeable death’ clause lead by both Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon in the ruling by the Quebec Superior Court in 2019.

Another significant change in Bill C-7 was the addition of the waiver of final consent, also known as Audrey’s Amendment, prompted by Nova Scotia’s Audrey Parker who set the date for her MAID provision earlier than she wanted because of the fear of losing capacity and the ability to consent on her final day.

Bill C-7 also included the following important changes:

  • A second track for those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable.
  • Witnesses reduced from two to one and a witness can be a personal or health care worker
  • Mental illness as a sole underlying condition excluded until 2023.

Supporting people, their families, caregivers and health care providers as they explore end-of-life options.

At Dying With Dignity Canada, we saw an increase in the need for our support services including inquiries about MAID support, witnessing and navigation. We anticipate this trend will continue with the changes we plan to advocate for in the near future.

Leading education on Advance Care Planning, patient education and end-of-life options including medical assistance in dying.

We stepped up our online education, due to COVID, and we saw an overall 25% increase in attendees to our webinars at both the national level and locally through our Chapters.

You can view many of our webinars from 2021 on our website here.

We released an updated version of our Advance Care Planning Kit, which is available, for free to everyone, on our website here.

Operational excellence

  • Enhancing relationships and collaborating with Chapters
  • Improving our stewardship and development activities to ensure sustainability
  • Marketing and communications efforts that promote and support our activities
  • Proactively engaging with media on the topics of assisted dying and end-of-life options.

What did we hear most from DWDC supporters in 2021?

Can I make an advance request for MAID?

The short answer is no, but this issue will be considered in the Parliamentary Review of MAID that we anticipate will be reconstituted in 2022.

Can a person with a severe mental illness access MAID?

If your sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness, you are not eligible to receive medical assistance in dying. This exclusion will remain in effect until March 17, 2023; in that time an Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness will review this issue and recommend protocols, guidance and safeguards. The exclusion was put in place to allow the government the opportunity to prepare and make sure the right measures are in place when the exclusion is repealed. Neurocognitive conditions, including dementia, are not included in the exclusion for MAID. The exclusion refers primarily to psychiatric conditions.

Can a person with dementia access MAID?

Some people with dementia can access assisted dying as long as they satisfy all the requirements laid out in the federal law. This includes the legal requirement that MAID assessors would determine whether or not they meet the criteria.

What will DWDC be working on in 2022?

  1. We will continue to focus advocacy efforts on the Parliamentary Review including advance requests, mature minors and those with a mental illness.
  2. We will work to reduce or remove exemptions for publicly-funded healthcare facilities who opt-out of providing MAID on their premises.
  3. We plan to expand both our support and education efforts including to create new online, digital and print resources.
  4. We will continue to collaborate with our local Chapters on education and support activities, as well as reinvigorate and initiate new Advisory Councils to help shape our work and advocacy efforts.
  5. We will improve our stewardship efforts and supporter recognition.
  6. Our new website will launch in early 2022. This site will be more accessible and bilingual to bolster our efforts to be more inclusive.
  7. We will respond to and engage with the media more proactively and work to regularly correct any misinformation we see about end-of-life choice.

In summary, we are feeling optimistic about the future based on the accomplishments of the past year and the plans we have for the year to come. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our work in 2021.