Canada delays plan to offer medically assisted death to mentally ill people

Canada is delaying a plan to offer people with mental illness the option of medically assisted dying, two cabinet ministers said Monday.

The announcement by Health Minister Mark Holland and Justice Minister Arif Virani came after a parliamentary select committee look at the plan concluded that there are not enough doctors, especially psychiatrists, in the country to assess and help patients with mental illness who want to end their lives.

“The system has to be ready and we have to get it right,” Holland told reporters. “From the conversations we’ve had, it’s clear that the system isn’t ready yet and we need more time.”

Neither minister gave a timetable for the latest extension. After an earlier delay, the expansion was due to come into force on March 17.

Canada already offers medically assisted dying to terminally and chronically ill people, but the plan to expand the program to those with mental illnesses divides Canadians.

Some critics say the plan is a result of Canada’s public health system’s inability to provide adequate mental health care, which is chronically underfunded and faces demand that exceeds its availability.

Many psychiatrists say the plan would undermine suicide prevention efforts, and they have expressed fear that patients with complex problems will abandon treatments that can take years to produce results in favor of medically assisted dying.

Advocates say denying people with mental illness the opportunity to end their suffering through death is a form of discrimination.

Canada introduced medically assisted dying after its introduction The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that requiring people to cope with unbearable suffering is a violation of fundamental rights to freedom and security.

The law was expanded in 2021 after the Quebec Superior Court struck down the government’s original euthanasia law on constitutional grounds as it only applied to…

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