Canada seeks to delay assisted dying for people with mental illness

  • In Business
  • 2023-02-02 18:29:53Z
  • By BBC
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Photo of Canada's Justice Minister David Lametti  

Canada is seeking to delay the expansion of medically assisted dying for people with mental illness by one year.

Access to euthanasia was set to broaden next month for people whose sole medical condition is mental disorder.

The proposed expansion has come under fire from those who worry that it does not have appropriate safeguards.

Advocacy group Dying with Dignity says it is disappointed by the delay as it will extend the suffering of some.

Canada's Justice Minister David Lametti introduced the bill seeking to delay the expansion to 17 March, 2024 in Parliament on Thursday.

The proposed one-year extension gives the government more time to prepare for the change in the law and to consider a final report, due this month, from a parliamentary committee reviewing the Medical Assistance in Dying law, the justice department said.

"We want to be sure, we want to be safe," said Mr Lametti at a news conference in Ottawa.

The delay for people whose sole medical condition is a mental illness will provide sufficient time to ensure the health care system protects those who may be vulnerable and will support freedom of choice, he said.

Mr Lametti said he recognises the delay may be hard for some but called it "necessary" to ensure assisted dying is offered safely.

The proposal must still pass in parliament.

Dying with Dignity, an advocacy group working on protecting end-of-life rights, has urged swift action from those working on the legislation.

"For those who have been denied compassion, autonomy and personal choice, this is not a short delay but yet another barrier," the group said in a statement shared with the BBC.

  • Canada wrestles with euthanasia for the mentally ill

Since 2016, following a Supreme Court decision, Canada's medical assistance in dying programme - known by its acronym 'Maid' - has been available for adults with terminal illness.

In 2021, the law was changed to include those with serious and chronic physical conditions, even if that condition was non-life threatening.

The inclusion of people whose sole medical condition was mental illness was to be delayed for two years - to 2023 - while the federal government set up appropriate safeguards.

The Maid programme has faced criticism in recent years, including from some psychiatrists who asked for a delay over concerns the health care system is not ready to handle requests for assisted dying from people with mental disorders, as it is difficult to predict who can recover from a mental illness.

Assisted dying deaths accounted for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada in 2021.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this story, the has links to organisations which can offer support and advice


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