Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024

The report of a special parliamentary committee could influence Ottawa's decision on whether or not to allow people who suffer only from Alzheimer's disease. a mental illness to obtain medical assistance in dying.

Expansion of medical assistance in dying: a indefinite pause requested

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Ottawa agrees to ensure that health systems in all provinces and territories have clear instructions and standards before moving forward.

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< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Conservative and New Democratic members of the joint committee on medical assistance in dying (MAID) want to expand eligibility for MAID to people with a medical condition The government has already suspended this extension of medical assistance in dying once, but this measure will end on March 17.

This parliamentary committee, made up of 15 deputies and senators from several parties, was mandated last fall by the federal government to determine whether the health system is ready to face this expansion. He must submit his report by January 31, then the government will make a decision.

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Federal Health Minister Mark Holland has not ruled out a further delay in the opening of the medical assistance in dying program to people with mental illness. (File photo)

An extension of this pause would require the government to introduce a bill, which is expected to obtain royal assent before the deadline from March 17.

We certainly recognize that there is an equivalence between physical suffering and mental suffering, notes Minister Holland. But we need to make sure that the support is there, that the training is there.

The parliamentary committee was formed in 2021 after Parliament passed a bill that expanded medical assistance in dying to include people with mental illness.

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The bill was amended when senators voted to impose an 18-month deadline for the mental illness exclusion to give federal, provincial, territorial and medical associations time to develop guidelines and appropriate protections.

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New Democrat MP Alistair MacGregor believes that the federal government should slow down the expansion of the medical assistance in dying program. (File photo)

British Columbia NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, one of the committee's vice-chairs, believes the law was amended without proper consultation, leaving parliamentarians and many civil society actors in the lurch. x27;obligation to scramble to catch up.

All this testifies to the mismanagement by the Liberals on this file from the start, which now leaves us in a sort of legal limbo.

A quote from Alistair MacGregor, NDP MP from British Columbia

Witnesses from the legal and medical communities gave committee members a wide range of perspectives on both sides of this very sensitive issue.

Michael Cooper, a committee member and Conservative MP for St. Albert–Edmonton, admits he was influenced by psychiatrists who told the committee it would be difficult, if not impossible, for health professionals to to decide that a mental illness cannot be treated or that a request for MAID from a person with a mental illness is rational or motivated by ideas suicidal.

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Conservative MP Michael Cooper notes that his party opposed the planned expansion of the medical assistance in dying program to cover mental illness . (Archive photo)

Canada is not ready [ …]. These liberals put ideology ahead of evidence-based decision-making.

A quote from Michael Cooper, committee member and Conservative MP for St. Albert–Edmonton

For his part, Nova Scotia Senator Stanley Kutcher , also a member of the committee, believes that Canadians who suffer from incurable mental illnesses deserve to have the same rights as those who suffer from serious physical illnesses.

I think we need to be led by…compassion […]. We cannot ignore the fact that some people are allowed to make an end-of-life choice, says Mr. Kutcher, a trained psychiatrist.

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Senator Stanley Kutcher is calling on the federal government to allow supplemental health insurance for people whose only medical problem is mental illness. (File photo)

Federal Health Minister Mark Holland acknowledged that questions were raised by the two experts who testified before the committee, as well as provincial and territorial governments, and he did not rule out another postponement.< /p>

The government of Quebec, which has already looked into this issue in the past, is not considering extending the #x27;medical assistance in dying for people with mental illness. The province has stated that mental illness is not considered a disease for the purposes of MAID.

Helen Long, CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada, believes the government is ready to move forward. She points out that it met three main prerequisites to expand eligibility for medical assistance in dying to mental illnesses:

Only a small number of people whose only health problem is mental illness would be eligible for MAID, that is, people who have endured many years of suffering and who have tried several treatments.

A quote from Helen Long , CEO of Dying With Dignity Canada

Dr. Jitender Sareen is part of a group of eight university chairs in psychiatry who wrote to federal ministers and who urged the committee not to expand medical assistance in dying to people with mental illnesses.

He says the standards of conduct that guide psychiatrists and clinicians are inadequate and that Canada lags behind other countries in funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Offering death to a person who has not had the opportunity to get better, with or without treatment, is, in our opinion, unacceptable.

A quote from Dr. Jitender Sareen, professor and head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba

Dr. Sonu Gand, professor at the University of Toronto and head of the department of psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, believes that there were not enough safeguards to protect the most vulnerable.

If the bill goes ahead, it would be completely irresponsible, laments Dr. Ghent.

The leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, supports expanding MAID, but not before having better social and economic programs, including a guaranteed minimum income.

At this time, we cannot be certain that a Canadian is not requesting medical assistance in dying because they do not have housing or are not #x27;can't afford to pay her rent.

A quote from Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party

Since the adoption of federal law, in 2016, 44,958 Canadians obtained medical assistance in dying.

The most recent annual report (New window ) from Health Canada indicates that 13,241 people received medical assistance in dying in 2022, an increase of 31.2% compared to 2021.

In addition, in 2022, 9% of MAID recipients suffered from dementia – also called major neurocognitive disorder – characterized by a loss of mental faculties.

With information from Olivia Stefanovitch of CBC News

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