The federal government has refused the request made by a majority of the provinces and territories to expand Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) to include mental illness as a qualifying condition. Health Minister Mark Holland made the announcement on Tuesday, stating that more time is needed to consider the complex issue.
Tania Stilson, a strong advocate for MAiD, expressed her disappointment with the government’s decision. Stilson’s father, John Warren, had accessed MAiD in January 2023 after suffering from hepatitis B and peripheral neuropathy. Stilson believes MAiD should be available to more Canadians as a compassionate option.
The joint parliamentary committee, responsible for reviewing the proposed legislation, recommended a delay in expanding MAiD to cover mental illness. The federal government had previously faced a March 17 deadline to pass the legislation. Minister Holland confirmed that they would assess the recommendation and determine the appropriate timeline in the coming days.
While Stilson acknowledged the committee’s recognition of mental disorders as analogous to physical conditions, she expressed sadness for those who have been waiting for this legislation. Many families have been eagerly anticipating this expansion to provide relief and agency to their loved ones.
According to Health Canada, over 13,000 Canadians accessed MAiD in 2022, accounting for 4.1% of all deaths in the country. As the debate over MAiD continues, conservatives remain opposed to the inclusion of mental illness in the criteria for this end-of-life option.
Stilson remains committed to advocating for the accessibility of MAiD to those who meet the necessary requirements. She stressed the importance of Canadians knowing that MAiD is a legal choice supported by the country’s legislation.
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