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Ottawa considers suspending expansion of medical assistance in dying

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Granting medical assistance in dying to people whose only underlying condition is mental illness raises concerns in public opinion, say the liberals.

The Canadian Press

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The federal government is studying the possibility of suspending its initial plan to expand the rules governing medical assistance in dying which would include patients whose only condition The underlying underlying condition is a mental disorder.

We are evaluating our options, Justice Minister Arif Virani said on Thursday.

This would be the second time that the federal Liberals have suspended their project. The first time was in February when the government decided to impose a one-year deadline in the face of general concern among public opinion and the political world. /p>

This decision set a new deadline of March 2024, which now appears to be in jeopardy. The cabinet will take into account the opinions of a joint parliamentary committee, as well as those of medical experts and other stakeholders, Virani said.

We will evaluate all of this comprehensively to decide whether we move forward on March 17 or do a break.

A quote from Arif Virani, Federal Minister of Justice

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Both options are on the table, a he added.

In February, Mr Virani's predecessor, David Lametti, said the government could have moved ahead with its timetable, but preferred to give health professionals more time to prepare for change.

At the time, Mr. Lametti indicated that an extension would provide sufficient time to ensure that our system of Health care protects vulnerable people and supports autonomy and freedom of choice.

Medical assistance in dying was legalized in Canada in 2016. Three years later, the Quebec Superior Court declared the original test requiring that natural death be reasonably foreseeable unconstitutional.

The senators also argued that excluding people with a qualifying mental disorder was a violation of their rights. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government finally agreed to expand eligibility in 2021.

The decision resulted in a two-year sunset clause that was set to expire last March, before the Liberals proposed delaying it for another year.

A handful of European countries already allow adults whose only medical problem is a mental disorder to request medical assistance in dying. There has been heated debate about whether Canada should follow suit.

Its supporters claim that expanding the scheme offers a choice to people who are suffering and have no other options, denying them constitutes a violation of their rights.

Some representatives of disability organizations, however, believe that adequate mental health support is a better option.

Other organizations, like the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, note that there is no clear medical consensus on what constitutes serious, irremediable mental illness, or how to distinguish it. of suicidality.

According to Mr. Virani, the first step will be to evaluate the recommendations of a special joint committee of deputies and senators charged with studying the issue. The committee was reconvened after the government imposed the original deadline.

Committee members adopted the report, but they have until x27;at the end of January to present it to the House of Commons, mentioned in a statement co-chair René Arseneault, Liberal MP from Quebec.

Canadians should follow the committee's recommendations because we are very interested in having the system ready, said Mr. Virani. This will influence what we do on March 17 […] whether we move forward with mental illness as the sole underlying condition or not.

The decision to seek medical assistance to end one's life is a fundamental personal choice, he added.

The government, he said, is very actively listening to voices that say Canada is not ready to expand its scope of action to mental illness.

Federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has already pledged to withdraw expansion plans if he forms the next government.

Some liberal MPs also oppose this idea. Eight of them broke ranks in October. They supported a Conservative private member's bill that would have amended the Criminal Code to expressly prohibit the use of a mental disorder as a basis for choosing medical help to terminate the life of a person.

The bill was rejected, the majority of Liberal and NDP MPs and all MPs from Bloc Québécois having opposed it.

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