'Audrey's amendment' is now the law after medically assisted dying bill gets royal assent
HALIFAX -- The law governing who can qualify for medically assisted death has changed after Bill C-7 was given royal assent by the Senate on Wednesday night.
The changes are applauded by some, but concerning for others.
One of the changes was a Nova Scotia woman's dying wish.
"We need to find the courage to change this law," Audrey Parker said in 2018, just months before the woman who had terminal cancer received a medically assisted death.
Parker's passing took place earlier than she wanted because the law required patients to give final consent just before the procedure.
She worried she wouldn't be able to do it if she waited.
Now, what her supporters call "Audrey's amendment" is the law.
"This change to the law will give a lot of Canadians a lot of comfort," said Parker's friend Kimberly King.
That change is one of a number now in effect with the passing of Bill C-7.
"Then you can waive that final consent and you can receive medical assistance in dying when you wanted to receive it," said Sen. Jim Cowan, who is also the board chair of Dying with Dignity Canada.
Now, Canadians who feel they are suffering, but not facing death immediately, can apply for medical assistance in dying (MAID) -- with extra assessments and counselling.
But, there are concerns.
"There wasn't a lot of consultation with the disability community," said disability advocate April Hubbard.
Hubbard worries a lack of supports for people with disabilities may lead some down the wrong path.
"As a result, a lot of individuals -- especially people with new disabilities -- will not see that they can have full and independent lives, and just make a rash decision," Hubbard said.
There is a similar worry for mental health advocates, as the bill will allow those suffering from mental illness to apply, although not for another two years.
"How do we know that the people that are applying for MAID aren't applying out of real desperation because they haven't experienced appropriate treatment?" said Margaret Eaton, the CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
But psychiatrist and Canadian senator Stan Kutcher says the system uses clinical assessments as safeguards.
"One makes an application, and before the application, one has to have a grievous and irredeemable medical condition, and has suffering which is intolerable to them," Kutcher said.
Government rejected a Senate amendment to allow people afraid of losing mental capacity to request an assisted death in advance, but it plans to form a joint parliamentary committee to review that issue and others within the month.