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Yukon Territories

Liberals table bill delaying medically assisted dying expansion to March 2024

OTTAWA — Canadians whose only condition is a mental disorder will not be eligible for a medically-assisted death for another year under legislation introduced in the Commons on Thursday.

OTTAWA — Canadians whose only condition is a mental disorder will not be eligible for a medically-assisted death for another year under legislation introduced in the Commons on Thursday.

Attorney General David Lametti introduced the bill, which aims to delay renewal of the eligibility until March 17, 2024.

“We have to be careful. We have to take it step by step and make sure that people within the profession, Canadian society at large, have internalized that step,” Lametti told reporters.

“To be honest we could have gone ahead with the original date but we want to be sure. We want to be sure. We want everyone to be on the same page.”

The Liberal government agreed to extend the authority to the Euthanasia Act in its 2021 update after senators amended the bill. The senators argued that excluding people with mental illness would violate their rights.

That law set a two-year deadline for expansion, which is due to expire on March 17. The Liberals now have six weeks to pass the new law.

Lametti had previously said he expected an agreement between other parties and senators to pass the bill in this short timeframe.

Federal officials said the delay will give the government more time to develop practice standards for evaluating the more complex euthanasia claims. The statement was made during a technical briefing for the media, on the understanding that the officials would not be named, per the agreement.

These standards will need to be adjusted by regional and regional regulators and clinicians, a process currently expected in March.

Officials said an accredited medical assisted-dying curriculum is also being developed for clinicians. It is scheduled to be rolled out in autumn and completed by the end of the year.

They said the delay also allows better collection and reporting of data on euthanasia cases.

At the beginning of the year, new regulations came into force that enable “extended data collection”. The data will go beyond simple demographic details to examine how alternative treatments were offered and considered prior to the euthanasia process.

Helen Long, CEO of advocacy group Dying With Dignity Canada, said in a statement that allowing people with mental disorders access “is discriminatory and perpetuates the stigma that they are unable to make decisions about their own healthcare.” being refused euthanasia.

Before Lametti submitted the bill, the group had urged the federal government to make the delay “short and effective.”

But Lametti said not everyone is ready.

“We heard a number of different voices saying, ‘Slow it down,'” he said.

“And at that point the question arose, for how long. And those negotiations have led to where we are today.”

Conservative MP Michael Cooper said on Twitter that the delay was not enough and that “dangerous enlargement” had to be stopped altogether.

Tories have argued that it is difficult for doctors to tell when a person’s suffering from a mental disorder is past the point of treatment, so the policy could result in preventable deaths.

“One year will not solve the problems. Experts agree that there is no established incurability in mental illness,” Cooper said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 2, 2023.

David Fraser, The Canadian Press

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