The Canadian government has introduced a law delaying the extension of medically-assisted dying laws for people with mental illness. In a news release Thursday, the Department of Justice announced Bill C-39, which proposes that the broadened medical assistance in dying laws (MAID) be delayed until March 2024.
Eligibility for MAID for those suffering from mental illness is set to come into force next month; however, medical experts have expressed concerns that appropriate safeguards have not been implemented. First proposed in December, the temporary delay will allow the government to consider the final report being prepared by the Special Joint Committee on MAID (AMAD), and ensure the “safe and consistent assessment and provision” of euthanasia where the sole underlying condition is mental illness.
In the Department’s release, Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti stated:
“There is no doubt that medical assistance in dying is a very complex and deeply personal issue. We strongly believe that the proposed one-year extension, until March 17, 2024, of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness will provide sufficient time to ensure our health care system protects those who may be vulnerable and support autonomy and freedom of choice.”
A 2021 survey conducted by Dying with Dignity found that 65 percent of Canadians supported MAID eligibility for those with mental health disorders on the condition that they meet all other criteria and can provide informed consent. In June, AMAD released an interim report on the extended MAID laws which found that more time was needed to sufficiently review and safeguard the process. The report concluded that that the government would need “standards of practice, clear guidelines, adequate training for practitioners, comprehensive patient assessments and meaningful oversight in place,” to safely implement the laws.