Canada delays assisted-suicide for mentally ill people  

Canada is delaying plans which would have allowed people suffering only from mental illness to access medically assisted suicide.

Legislation was due to take effect in March 2023, but now Justice Minister David Lametti  has said the government would seek to delay the expansion of so-called ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ (Maid), following criticism from psychiatrists and physicians across the country, including some who headed up Maid teams in hospitals.

When Canada first passed laws allowing assisted suicide in 2016, only patients with a terminal illness were eligible for the procedure. But in 2019, a Quebec judge found the rule unconstitutional, pushing lawmakers to amend the existing laws to include adults who didn’t have a reasonably foreseeable death. The judge said the law was discriminatory because it didn’t allow for ‘Maid’ in cases of ‘unbearable suffering’ where a person was not terminally ill.

Bill C-7, which passed in March 2021, reflected the court decision, but lawmakers implemented a two-year ban on patients with mental illness as the sole cause of accessing assisted death, giving them more time to study the issue. That study would have ended 17 March.

In recent weeks, psychiatrists have spoken out about a lack of preparedness within the healthcare system. The Association of Chairs of Psychiatry in Canada, which includes heads of psychiatry departments at all 17 medical schools, issued a statement last week calling for a delay.

Media reports have also highlighted controversial cases, increasingly polarizing the issue.

5