Medical Assistance in Dying: Current Status and Future Prospects


Understanding the Legal Framework and Future Changes in Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada

Since 2016, medical assistance in dying (MAiD) has been legal in Canada. This post discusses when MAiD is available to an individual, and how these circumstances may be broadening in the future.

There are currently safeguards in place to ensure the protection of vulnerable people. To qualify for MAiD, a person must:

  • be eligible for health services publicly funded by the government of Canada (i.e. BC’s Medical Services Plan);
  • be 18 years or older and capable of making decisions about their health;
  • have made a voluntary request for MAiD that was not made as a result of external pressure;
  • have given informed consent to receive MAiD after being informed of alternative means available to relieve their suffering; and
  • have a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

A grievous and irremediable medical condition is defined as a serious and incurable illness, disease, or disability, where the person is in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed, causing the person to endure physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to the person and cannot be relieved under conditions they consider appropriate.

The current legislation does not include mental illness in the definition of “illness, disease, or disability”. The government planned to expand eligibility to include mental illness in March 2024 but postponed this to March 2027 through Bill C-62.

The reluctance to include mental illness stems from difficulties in assessing the irremediability of mental illnesses, protecting vulnerable individuals, distinguishing MAiD requests from suicidal intentions, lack of professional consensus, and limited availability of trained practitioners. Evidence has been presented both supporting and opposing these concerns.

Looking ahead, MAiD may eventually be available for those with mental illness as their sole medical condition, provided the medical system is prepared to handle these cases safely and diligently.

If you have applied for MAiD and require legal assistance with ensuring your Will and estate are up-to-date, contact Heath Law.