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Canada delays right to physician-assisted death for mentally ill people

On Thursday December 15, the federal government declared it needs more time before expanding Canada’s controversial medical assistance in dying (MAID) policy to include mentally ill people.

An update to Canada’s medical assistance in dying legislation passed in spring 2021. It included a provision to temporarily exclude those whose sole underlying condition is a mental disorder from eligibility. Clinicians say there is concern that the country’s healthcare system is inadequate to protect most vulnerable.

An expert panel studying the issue has heard concerns from clinicians, researchers and academics who questioned whether the proper safeguards are in place to expand the eligibility criteria without putting people with mental disorders or those living in poverty at risk. In July, the Canadian Ministers of Health highlighted their progress in reaction to the recommendations.

Now, Justice Minister David Lametti said that the government has heard concerns that the health-care system might not be prepared to handle those complicated cases. “Some provinces, territories and those working in the health-care system say that more time is needed,” he said during a news conference.

The federal government has announced it will be negotiating an “extension” to the March 17 2023 deadline. A new deadline is not mentioned.

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