Advocates on both sides of the issue are preparing for a fight in the new year over broadened access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) and whether it would pose risks to Canadians with disabilities.
In March 2021, Parliament passed Bill C-7. The law made a number of changes to Canada's MAID law, passed in 2016 — the most notable being the repeal of the stipulation that an individual's death has to be "reasonably foreseeable" to qualify for medical assistance.
Helen Long is CEO of Dying with Dignity Canada, a national organization advocating for MAID rights. She said the law gave a new group of people the right to end their suffering.
"So that's opened up a what we call a 'track two,' a whole new track for people with a different type of illness who haven't been eligible in the past, even if they may have been suffering just as intolerably," she said.
Another notable change introduced in C-7, she said, allows those who asked for MAID and were found eligible to still receive it if they later lose the capacity to consent.
C-7's effects on the number of people seeking MAID in Canada are not yet clear.
The federal government has published annual reports covering MAID statistics for the past two years. The most recent covered 2020; it reported 7,595 cases of medically assisted death in Canada in that year — a 34.2 per cent increase over 2019.
When CBC News asked for the 2021 numbers, a Health Canada spokesperson pointed to the most recent report.
Long said data from some provinces indicate we may see a very slight increase in the number of medically assisted deaths in 2021.
And the changes to the law might not be the only reason more people are seeking medical assistance in dying, she said.
"I think that's in part due to the changes, but also MAID numbers do go up a tiny bit each year just as people become aware that this is something that they can consider at end of life," she said.
Kristin Raworth's stepmother Marie received medical assistance in dying. Marie passed away in December aged 70, after a form of Parkinson's Disease took over her life.
Raworth, who lives in Edmonton, said she's grateful her stepmother had the option.
"This is something that she very much wanted, and it was very peaceful and she was surrounded by love and people who loved her," she said.