MAiD for mental illness pushed back at least two years

  • February 2, 2024

The federal government is planning to delay its planned expansion of assisted suicide for individuals sole living with mental illness until March 2027.

Canada’s Health Minister Mark Holland tabled legislation to that effect. The House of Commons and the Senate will have to approve this bill before March 17 of this year. Holland said in a Feb. 1 press conference that provincial and territorial health apparatuses are not ready to accommodate the enlargement of the medical assistance in dying (MAiD) regime.

“By setting out a timeline of three years, it’s an indication that the systems need to move towards readiness in two years,” said Holland. “There’s the opportunity to do another review, and to assess the readiness of the system through a parliamentary process.” 

This legislation will include a provision that will allow Parliament to assess if the system will be ready to institute the expansion in 2026. 

Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), welcomed the news of the further delay in a blog post on the EPC website.

“The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is pleased with the delay, but we will be urging all Members of Parliament to reject euthanasia for mental illness,” wrote Schadenberg. “When considering that most Canadians who support euthanasia do so based on the person being terminally ill and capable of consenting, people who ask for euthanasia based on mental illness alone are not terminally ill and have a questionable ability to consent.”

The EPC plans on raising awareness across the country before the next federal election — scheduled for on or before Oct. 20, 2025 — about the MPs who voted against Conservative Ed Fast’s Bill C-314, which would have effectively terminated medical killing for the mentally ill from ever going forward. 

Before Holland’s press conference, Senators Pamela Wallin, Stan Kutcher and Marie-Françoise Mégie covened to inform media that they oppose the government’s plan to delay.

“In our opinion, this is fundamentally a Charter issue,” said Kutcher. “All Canadians, regardless of where they live, who they love, what illness they have, have the same rights. And this goes for people with a mental disorder.

“To discriminate against a group of people in terms of their wish to be assessed for MAiD just does not follow the Charter. So the question here is, are, is the government willing to stand up and to follow the Charter rights?”

In a recent interview with The Catholic Register, Trudo Lemmens, a professor in health law at the University of Toronto, warned about “zealous” individual senators.

“We will have to see how the Senate reacts since some senators have shown a remarkably zealous commitment to expansion, and may try to block at the Senate level a law implementing the (joint committee’s) recommendations,” said Lemmens.

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