Day 6

Lack of supports in life can push people with disabilities toward medical assistance in dying, says advocate

Ottawa has now tabled new legislation expanding the criteria for those eligible for medical assistance in dying. That worries Samadhi Mora Severino, who fears death will become an easier alternative to having proper home care and pain supports.

'There are so many gaps in services that we haven't addressed,' says Samadhi Mora Severino

Nicole Gladu, left, and Jean Truchon, right, disputed the Canadian law restricting access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) to those for whom death is 'reasonably foreseeable.' (Charles Contant/CBC)

This week the federal government introduced new legislation expanding the eligibility requirements for medical assistance in dying (MAID).

MAID was legalized in Canada in 2016 and since then an estimated 13,000 people have died with medical assistance.

But last year a Quebec judge ruled that some parts of the original legislation were unconstitutional. In particular, the requirement that Canadians face a "reasonably foreseeable" death before seeking MAID was ruled a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The new legislation tabled this week expands the eligibility criteria that would remove the requirement for "reasonable foreseeability of natural death," among other changes.

As with the 2016 legislation, Samadhi Mora Severino still has concerns.

"I do support the right to die, but I also support the right to life. And so I think that we need to carefully balance both within public policy," she told Day 6.

Mora Severino says  inequities in care may push people to choose death, rather than living with pain or in an assisted care facility.

"There's a huge proportion ... of people with disabilities living in nursing homes across the country. And they shouldn't be there. They should be able to live at home with home care supports," she said.

"There are so many gaps in services that we haven't addressed ... to ensure that people with disabilities can live a dignified life."

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