Medical Assistance in Dying and Bill C-39: Expanding Eligibility of Persons Suffering Solely from Mental Illness

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) has been the subject of much controversy, especially in the last few years, and it continues to generate great debate today. The service, which permits doctors and other medical practitioners to facilitate the deaths of consenting patients who are suffering from intolerable illness, was first decriminalized by the Carter v Canada decision in 2016. Since then, expansions for MAID have been proposed and implemented that widen the group of people who can access the service. What at first was perceived to be an effort to reduce the suffering of those persons who would opt to die rather than to continue living with an untreatable illness that causes them terrible pain, has since changed to include other types of patients for whom death may not even be foreseeable.

In this episode, we discuss another proposed expansion to MAID suggested by Bill C-39, which seeks to expand MAID availability to people suffering solely from mental illness. Joining us here at Pro Bono Radio is our esteemed and experienced guest, Mr. Julius Grey. Mr. Grey is a leading Constitutional and human rights lawyer in Canada and has appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada over 50 different times. He has vocally opposed the expansion of MAID to people suffering solely from mental illness and strongly believes that section 7 of the Charter, which guarantees the right to life of the person, should be protected with respect to MAID except only in the most necessary of circumstances.

Arjun Kapil – Producer, Host, Editor

Music: Royalty Free Music:

Pro Bono Radio is part of the Queen’s chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada. The Pro Bono Radio team are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice.

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Research Referred to in Podcast:
Carter v Canada (AG), 2015 SCC 5

Truchon v. Procureur général du Canada, [2019] Q.J. No. 7750

Bill C-39: An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). (2023). Online: Department of Justice Canada.

Bill C-7: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). (2020). Online: Department of Justice Canada.

Medical assistance in dying: Overview. (2023). Online: Department of Justice Canada.

Ryan Tanner, “An ethical-legal analysis of medical assistance in dying for those with mental illness.” (2018) 56:1 Alta L Rev 149 – 175.

Madeleine Archer et al, “What Domains of Belgian Euthanasia Practice are Governed and by Which Sources of Regulation: A Scoping Review” (2023) OMEGA – J Death and Dying, 0(0).

Marc De Hert et al, “Improving control over euthanasia of persons with psychiatric illness: Lessons from the first Belgian criminal court case concerning euthanasia.” (2020) Front Psychiatry 13:933748.

Caroline Favron-Godbout & Eric Racine, “Medical assistance in dying for people living with mental disorders: a qualitative thematic review.” (2023) 24 BMC Med Ethics 86.

Diana Young, (2022) “Biopower, juridical power and the afterlife of rights: Medical assistance in dying and the Supreme Court of Canada.” (2022) 26:1 Theoretical Criminology 112-131.

Anna Farrow, “Lawyer to Challenge MAiD for Mentallty Ill”, (22 November, 2023), online:

Masih Khalatbari, “Surge in medically assisted deaths under Canada’s MAID program outpaces every other country”, Toronto Star (27 January, 2024), online: