A special parliamentary committee released a report Monday urging Ottawa to park the breaks on expanding assisted suicide legislation.
"Committee concludes that the medical system in Canada is not prepared for medical assistance in dying where mental disorder is the sole underlying medical condition (hereinafter “MAID MD-SUMC”), the report reads. It recommends not moving forward with the expansion to include mental illness until the departments of health and justice adequately consult provincial and territorial governments.
After MAID became legal in 2016, a Quebec court expanded access after judges ruled the "reasonably foreseeable" death clause unconstitutional.
In 2021, Ottawa permitted anyone with "a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability" who is in "an advanced state of irreversible decline" to access MAID — not including the mentally ill. However, the Senate permitted those with "irremediable" mental illness to access the procedure in a controversial amendment that passed later that year.
On Monday, Conservative and NDP MPs on the committee called for a pause to the planned expansion of eligibility for such cases, initially scheduled for March 17. The committee, made up of 15 MPs and senators, had to determine whether the healthcare system is prepared for the expansion.
"One year prior to the date on which it is anticipated that the law will permit MAID MD-SUMC the House of Commons and the Senate re-establish the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in order to verify the degree of preparedness attained for a safe and adequate application of MAID MD-SUMC," the report reads.
If the Trudeau Liberals adopt the recommendations of the all-party committee, it would mark the second delay of the expansion after a previous year-long delay. Health Minister Mark Holland will decide after the committee submits its report by January 31.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper argued that "Canada isn't ready," pointing to concerns raised by psychiatrists about the difficulty for medical professionals in determining the irreversibility of mental illness or the rationality behind a request for assisted death. "These Liberals have put ideology ahead of evidence-based decision making," he claimed.
NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, a vice-chair of the committee, criticized the feds for changing the law without proper consultation.
According to the 2021 MAID annual report, the number of Canadians accessing the procedure has steadily increased between 2016 and 2021, totalling 31,664 patients, typically above 70 years of age.