As Canada faces increasing global scrutiny over its Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) program, legislators are considering delaying an expansion that would allow assisted suicide or euthanasia for people solely due to mental illness.
Assisted suicide was legalized in Canada in 2016. But within just a few years, Bill C-7 removed the few safeguards that had been in place to protect vulnerable populations. Another new law, currently slated to take effect next year, would allow people who have a sole diagnosis of mental illness to qualify for MAiD. It would make Canada one of just a few countries in the world allowing assisted suicide for mental illness. Now the federal government is asking Parliament to delay the implementation of that law.
“At the end of the day we want to be prudent, we want to move in a step-by-step way, so we don’t make mistakes,” Justice Minister David Lametti said in a press conference. “We know we need to get this right in order to protect those who are vulnerable.”
While a delay is a positive development, it’s sadly only meant to be temporary; Lametti made sure to clarify that the government is still committed to ensuring people with mental illness qualify for MAiD. “We plan to take this next step,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring that our laws protect everyone while supporting the autonomy and freedom of choice that are central to Canada’s MAID regime.”
In recent months, there has been criticism leveled towards Canada’s MAiD program, as people with disabilities or those living in poverty have sought assisted suicide or euthanasia. Palliative care has, meanwhile, been negatively impacted, and the number of people choosing to undergo assisted suicide or euthanasia has skyrocketed. Individuals have reported being pressured into dying, including veterans who sought treatment for PTSD, or were simply looking for help obtaining supplies like a wheelchair ramp. Other people reported that they felt they have no other choice but to request MAiD due to poverty, or long wait times for medically necessary surgeries.