Canada Pushes for Big Change to Assisted-Death Law

Country looking to expand eligibility to include those who aren't in immediate risk of dying
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2020 10:10 AM CST
Canada Looks to Expand Eligibility for Assisted Death
The bill proposes opening up assisted death to people with "intolerable" suffering.   (Getty Images/sittithat tangwitthayaphum)

Canada's assisted-death law could soon apply to people who aren't in immediate risk of dying. The proposed changes announced Monday would "remove the requirement for a person's natural death to be reasonably foreseeable," Justice Minister David Lametti said, per Reuters. People suffering solely from mental illness would be excluded from the law, which would require people with an incurable condition to prove "intolerable" suffering, reports the BBC. That means people with degenerative diseases could request doctor-assisted death for the first time. So, too, could people with an illness that could later affect decision-making. Audrey Parker complained in 2018 that she was forced to die months earlier than she'd hoped for fear she would lose her ability to consent. "No one should be faced with such an impossible choice," Lametti said, per the CBC.

The move follows a September ruling by Quebec Superior Court, which found the condition that patients prove their natural death to be "reasonably foreseeable" infringed on the "life, liberty, and security of the person," per the BBC. The case had centered on two patients: one with cerebral palsy and one with post-polio syndrome. The government refused to appeal, though the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said the ruling gave the impression that "having a disability is a fate worse than death." Parliament previously left open the possibility of expanding the criteria of the law passed in 2016, which has allowed more than 13,000 people to end their lives, two-thirds of whom cited cancer. The bill proposed by the minority Liberal government needs to be passed by the House of Commons. The BBC reports it "has cross-party support." (More Canada stories.)

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