Canada Moves to Extend Exclusion of Mental Illness From Assisted Death

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s federal government on Thursday introduced a law that would exclude people suffering solely from mental illness from pursuing assisted death for an additional year.

Legislation passed in 2021 temporarily excluded people whose only underlying condition is a mental illness from accessing assisted death – a provision that expires on March 17. If the bill tabled Thursday passes, it will extend that until March 17, 2024.

The government says extending the exclusion is necessary to ensure assisted death providers have the information and resources they need and to let the government consider a parliamentary committee report on the topic.

“It is clear that more time is needed to get this right,” Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters Thursday, adding that this would give additional time for provinces and providers to “internalize” guidelines.

“We would have met the deadline. But in order to be prudent, in order that everybody be on the same page, we heard a number of different voices saying, ‘Slow this down.'”

Canada’s assisted dying framework has come under fire from disability advocates who say it has become easier to access assisted death than it is to access resources or supports that would make life more bearable.

People with non-mental disabilities or chronic health conditions that cause them intolerable suffering can still access assisted death if clinicians find them eligible and having the capacity to make that decision.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Deepa Babington)

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