Physician-assisted dying bill passes Senate 64-12, sent back to House

The Senate has voted 64-12 to send the federal government's assisted-dying bill back to the House of Commons with seven amendments. A vote on those amendments in the House could come as early as Thursday.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has already thrown cold water on a major amendment

Parliamentary 'ping-pong' match over assisted dying bill?

6 years ago
Duration 2:02
Senators' amendments to the assisted dying bill could lead to a parliamentary showdown with the House of Commons

The Senate has voted 64-12 with one abstention to send the federal government's assisted-dying bill back to the House of Commons for a vote.

MPs passed a motion Thursday morning to allow the amended bill to be debated in the House right away, without the usual waiting period that would have delayed debate until Monday. 

While in the Red Chamber, senators made seven amendments to the legislation.

The Senate rarely alters a government bill to this extent, as the honourable senators often defer to the Commons to craft legislation. But many senators have voiced serious concerns about Bill C-14's constitutionality, particularly the government's move to restrict physician-assisted dying to people whose natural death is "reasonably foreseeable."

If the Liberal government rejects the Senate's move to expand eligibility for assisted dying beyond those who are terminally ill, it could result in a showdown between the two chambers. The Conservative leader in the Senate, Claude Carignan, has already said there is a risk of the bill being "completely rejected" if it comes back in its original form.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, for her part, has said one of the Senate's key amendments goes too far.

"It will broaden the regime of medical assistance in dying in this country and we have sought to ensure that we, at every step, find the right balance that is required for such a turn in direction," she said of Liberal Senator Serge Joyal's amendment.

Senate communications have been active on social media since the senators got their hands on the controversial bill. They've tweeted out the following quote cards, detailing the seven amendments that passed the Red Chamber.

'Reasonably foreseeable'

(Senate of Canada)

Joyal's amendment is arguably the most significant. It proposes to drop the "reasonably foreseeable" condition and replace it with eligibility criteria that are closer to that drafted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its Carter decision. All Canadians with "a grievous and irremediable medical condition" causing "enduring suffering" would be able to access an assisted death — a much broader definition than initially intended.

Palliative care

(Senate of Canada)

Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton's amendment would require all patients considering physician-assisted dying to get a full briefing on available palliative care options.

Materially benefit from death

(Senate of Canada)

Another important change to the legislation is Conservative Senator Don Plett's amendment that would restrict who can help a person in their assisted death, tightening the rules around what role a person who would materially benefit from the death could do.

Death certificates

(Senate of Canada)

Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall's amendment would compel the health minister to draft regulations around death certificates and provide greater clarity on what information is collected by medical practitioners. 

Parliamentary reports

(Senate of Canada)

Liberal Senator Art Eggleton's amendment calls for a report to be issued to Parliament, within two years, on issues that have arisen from the provision of physician-assisted dying.

Minor language amendments

(Senate of Canada)
(Senate of Canada)