As the federal government debates new legislation that would expand Canada’s current legislation on medically assisted deaths, John Ibbitson suggests that the arguments both for and against making MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) more broadly available are compelling, making for a difficult decision and a “hard bargain” in the end.

Getting Started

This lesson is designed for secondary level students, with a caution that the subject matter may be disturbing. Due to their age, it is unlikely that students would be in a position to consider MAID for themselves; however, it could apply to a family member. In any case, students have a civic right to be aware of what is allowed.

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, health, current events

New Terms to explain

Filibustering, irremediable, marginalizations, intractable, palliative, utilitarian

Materials Needed

Access to the article, the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  • The purpose and conditions of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) legislation;
  • The limitations of the current MAID legislation;
  • Some key arguments for and against expanding the criteria for MAID eligibility.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

For this reading and comprehension exercise, students will use the article by John Ibbitson and the Internet to complete a worksheet on MAID.

As they read the article—aloud would be best, to a group, parent, or to a cohort—students should pay attention to what the current law is, what is proposed, and the arguments for and against expanding MAID. For greater detail, they will need to see the government website:


Medical assistance in dying means that under certain conditions a person may request a doctor to assist them in ending their own life.

Part One

  • What are the two principal criteria a person must meet to qualify for MAID? Explain what each means.
  • How old must a person be to qualify for MAID?
  • Can a visitor to Canada use this program?
  • Do you need to have a fatal condition to receive MAID?
  • What are the key criteria to establish “informed consent”? What kind of information must the applicant be made aware of?
  • What if an applicant changes his or her mind at the last minute?
  • Does mental illness qualify as a reason to receive MAID?
  • From the website: “…[Y]ou must also be mentally competent and capable of making decisions immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided…the physician or nurse practitioner must ask you to confirm your choice before administering the service.” How might this be viewed as unfair to people who have progressive dementia?

Part Two

  • What changes to the above are proposed in the new legislation?
  • Opponents of the changes include the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. What is their primary objection to the proposed changes?
  • What is the opinion of Catherine Frazee on this subject?
  • How might the proposed changes adversely affect persons of colour, according to Susan Cadell?
  • What percentage of deaths in Canada are now medically assisted?
  • What strict safeguards does Mr. Ibbitson believe should be in place before passing the bill into law?

Consolidation of Learning

  • When they’ve finished their assignment, students will discuss their work with their teacher, or supervising adult.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  • Explain the purpose and conditions of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying);
  • Describe the state of the current legislation regarding MAID;
  • Present some key arguments for and against expanding MAID criteria.

Confirming Activities

  • Students submit their worksheet.

Helpful Internet Searches

Activities to do together

  • Watch news feeds for the latest developments on the passage of the new bill;
  • Discuss, if appropriate, any known instances of a friend or relative who has chosen to access MAID.