Canadian Parliament rejects effort to protect persons with mental illness from assisted death

mental illness, euthanasia, canada, assisted suicide assisted death

A bill to protect people with mental illness from physician-assisted death in Canada has failed to pass. On October 18, the Canadian Parliament rejected bill C-314, which was aimed at banning assisted suicide and euthanasia for those who seek it solely for mental illness. 

Despite the loss, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said there is reason for hope because eight of the more liberal-leaning MPs voted in support of the bill, which was only narrowly defeated by 17 votes. According to some, this is a sign that Canada and the Parliament may not be uniformly in favor of assisted suicide.

Blog commentator “Tigrlily” at Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s website noted, “For me, this vote represents very encouraging news. Parliament is no longer in lock-step support for medical killing. I am hopeful that politicians and the general public are beginning to understand that there can be no free choice to die while old, ill, disabled, racialized, indigenous and other marginalized people don’t have a free choice in where and how we live.”

The defeated bill was sponsored by the Honorable Ed Fast, who previously explained in March that physician-assisted deaths for mental illness are already occurring. “Canadians don’t understand people are being euthanized for mental illness when in fact it’s not even legal,” he said.

In March 2021, Canada’s Parliament voted to remove restrictions on assisted suicide in the country. At that time, the “Medical Assistance in Dying” or “MAiD” system of assisted suicide and euthanasia became entrenched as the most libertine in the world. In 2021, over 10,000 Canadians were killed by assisted suicide or euthanasia, and those numbers are considered to be underreported.

Since then, experts have been sounding the alarm that assisted suicide and euthanasia endanger everyone, but particularly the most vulnerable human beings such as people experiencing disability and poverty and the aged. Human rights experts have been highly critical and are concerned that Canada’s law no longer protects vulnerable people but may actually endanger them. An expansion of MAiD to include mental illness was previously delayed but is expected to resume on March 17, 2024.

Marie-Claude Landry, the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission concluded that MAiD cannot be a default for Canada’s failure to fulfill its human rights obligations. According to an Associated Press article, Ms. Landry agreed with three U.N. experts on human rights, who vocally concluded that Canada’s MAiD law has had a “discriminatory impact.”

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