Government Introduces Bill to Delay Euthanasia Expansion
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At the end of January, the committee studying euthanasia recommended an indefinite delay of the planned expansion to those with mental illness. You can read more about the Committee’s recommendations here. In addition to the Committee’s report, seven provinces and three territories wrote to the federal government asking for an indefinite pause on the expansion. Mainstream media, such as the Globe and Mail, also called on the government to cancel, instead of delay, euthanasia for those with mental illness.
On February 1, just three days after the Committee tabled their report, the Minister of Health introduced Bill C-62 to delay the expansion. Although the Committee did not place a timeframe on their recommendation for delay, the government chose to delay for three years, until March 17, 2027.
There are a couple of interesting things to note about Bill C-62.
First, as just mentioned, the bill would delay the expansion of euthanasia to those with mental illness for three years. Last year, almost to the day, the government introduced Bill C-39, which delayed the expansion for one year, saying they believed the health care system would be ready by early 2024. But now the government has introduced a bill to delay for another three years – pushing this until after the next federal election. With continued pushback on the expansion in the next three years, the government may be convinced to cancel the expansion entirely.
Second, in line with the committee’s recommendations, the bill requires the committee to reconvene one year before the expansion comes into effect. The study that was just completed by the committee focuses solely on the question of whether Canada is ‘ready’ to expand euthanasia to those with mental illness. But Bill C-62 makes no mention of studying ‘readiness.’ Instead, it requires a “thorough review of the eligibility for medical assistance in dying of any person whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness.” Later, the Bill clarifies that the committee may include “any recommended changes to the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to medical assistance in dying.” This means that it would be within the next committee’s mandate to recommend stopping the expansion of euthanasia entirely, instead of sticking simply to a question of ‘readiness.’
Not Done Yet
Every Member of Parliament on the Joint Committee studying euthanasia agreed that the expansion needs to be delayed, with some going further and saying it should be canceled outright. Bill C-62 has already passed third reading in the House of Commons and has gone to the Senate. However, four out of the five Senators on the committee felt that a delay was unnecessary and potentially problematic. Some reports indicate that advocates for euthanasia expansion are encouraging the Senate to stop Bill C-62. If the Bill does not pass prior to March 17, Canadians with mental illness will be eligible for euthanasia.
The House of Commons is taking the right steps. But we need to continue to tell the Senate that Canadians want this delay passed. Please send an CareMail to your Senators encouraging them to pass Bill C-62 prior to the March 17, 2024 deadline.