Article by Ronan Levy, Growth Op
On October 5, David Lametti, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada reintroduced Bill C-7 in the House of Commons. This bill aims to make Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) more accessible for Canadians living with grievous and irremediable medical conditions, signalling a change that has been long in coming.
Evolution of palliative care in Canada
It took many years for MAiD to successfully gain support and be legalized in Canada. It was first introduced to Parliament in 2005 and passed in 2016. The proposed amendments to MAiD are now expected to pass quickly — likely by the end of 2020. This is because it took time to navigate some of the implications from the introduction of MAiD. Today’s proposed amendments are grounded in a more unifying principle — Canadians deserve the quality of dying as they do the quality of life.
Support for quality of dying has been a pillar of Canada’s social fabric for close to 50 years. Notably, palliative care emerged in Canada in the 1970s through Dr. Balfour Mount, a surgical oncologist at The Royal Victoria Hospital of McGill University in Montreal. He was the first to coin the term palliative care.
Canadians were living longer lives and, at the same time, living with more chronic and life-limiting diseases than ever. With close to 70 per cent of Canadians’ deaths resulting from cancer, circulatory diseases, and respiratory diseases, it became more important to find ways to help people manage pain and discomfort and access support to die with dignity.
How psilocybin is making a difference
It was also in the 1970s that Canada made psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of fungus (more commonly known as “magic mushrooms”), illegal. Of course, things could have been different.
Years of advancements in science, technology, and clinical trials tell us that psychedelics have medical uses, including addressing treatment-resistant mental health challenges that are prevalent among palliative Canadians and people suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As it turns out, psilocybin:
- is best classified as a non-addictive, plant-based medicine;
- shows efficacy for people experiencing end-of-life anxiety, depression, and distress;
- is gaining support among clinical experts and researchers across Canada, the United States, Israel, Australia, and the United Kingdom.