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Liberals to introduce law delaying MAiD expansion

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Ottawa –

The federal government plans to introduce legislation as early as Thursday to delay the extension of medical aid death eligibility for people whose only condition is mental illness.

Justice Minister David Lameti announced in December that Ottawa intended to seek a delay after hearing concerns that the health system may not be prepared for the expanded regime.

On Wednesday, he did not provide a timeline for the length of the delay.

“I can’t answer that, because that’s exactly what the bill is about,” he said. “My MPs have the right to be the first to hear it.”

The government notified the House of Representatives on Tuesday that a bill on dying medical assistance is in the works. This means the bill could be submitted as early as Thursday.

In a sign of what is to come, Rametti and Federal Minister for Mental Health and Addiction Carolyn Bennett will speak to media on Parliament Hill Thursday morning after a tech briefing with officials from Health Canada and the Department of Justice. It’s a schedule.

An update to the Assisted Death Act passed in 2021 created a two-year clock and delayed eligibility extensions for those whose only condition is mental illness.

These conditions are written into the law, so legislative amendments would be required to change the timeline, and Rametti said that to make it happen in the short timeframe available to Congress, other political parties and He said he hopes to get an agreement from the senators.

The liberal government did not initially plan legislation to extend eligibility for euthanasia to those whose only underlying medical condition was a mental disorder.

But it approved the Senate amendment after senators argued that excluding people with mental illness would conflict with their charter right to equal treatment under the law.

Some liberal opponents say that delaying change is proof that it was a bad idea in the first place.

Conservatives have argued that providing euthanasia for people with mental illness could lead to preventable deaths. This is because, unlike physical illnesses, it is more difficult for health professionals to determine when mental illnesses have passed the stage of treatment.

Conservative MP Michael Cooper said Wednesday that the government’s decision to seek an extension underscores the government’s “reckless approach” to expanding power. He suggested that liberals should abolish enlargement altogether.

“This shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “The reason we’re introducing legislation now at the 11th hour is because they’ve been ignoring experts who said it couldn’t be done safely at this time.”

A panel of experts on dying medical assistance and mental illness, convened by the government to investigate the matter, concluded last May that no further delays were necessary.

Existing eligibility criteria and safeguards were found to be adequate “so long as they were properly interpreted in view of the specificity of mental disorders.”

Lawyer Rose Carter, who served as vice-chair of that panel of experts, said she was not bothered by the delay and hoped that consultations with advocacy groups, states and medical organizations would take place in the meantime. rice field.

She said it was important that the roles of the various health care sectors were “clearly understood” as the expansion took place.

“I would like to see if the various agencies really continue to function, because I know that many agencies across Canada have to come together,” she said. I hope we can keep holding on, stay focused on this, and move forward.”

Medically assisted death is governed under criminal law, which is a matter of federal jurisdiction. However, the practice is carried out by the state’s health care system with funding from Ottawa.

This federal-state relationship adds an additional layer of complexity to the deployment of the expansion.

“A doctor practicing in Ontario would expect to receive the same treatment as a doctor practicing in Newfoundland or Nunavik,” Carter said. You have to, and that’s really important.”

States have no jurisdiction over whether or not euthanasia is legal, but that doesn’t mean all states are on board with upcoming changes.

Alberta Prime Minister Daniel Smith’s office says the province opposes extending eligibility to people whose only condition is mental illness, and that Ottawa should not move forward “without an agreement” from Alberta. says.

These comments were made as Canada’s prime minister prepares to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa next week on federal health care transfers.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 1, 2023.

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