Canada seeks to delay expansion of assisted death law to include mental illness

Canada passed its most recent assisted death law in 2021, excluding people whose sole underlying condition is mental illness. That exclusion was set to expire in March.

It would have made Canada one of six countries where a person suffering from mental illness alone who is not near their natural death can get a doctor to help them die.

The law requires a condition to be “irremediable” and causing intolerable suffering, as determined by two clinicians.

Some clinicians and advocates have argued vulnerable people are acquiring access to assisted death when they cannot get support; others have said it is not known when a mental illness is “irremediable.”

The federal government “intends to work with our parliamentary colleagues in the House and Senate to negotiate an extension of the March 17, 2023, eligibility date,” Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters.

He would not say how long of an extension he was seeking.

“We want to be prudent. We want to move in a step-by-step way so that we don’t make mistakes,” Lametti said, adding that the government had listened to Canadians.

“At the end of the day, it was an evolution.”

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