Eligibility for medical assistance in dying for persons suffering solely from mental illness extended to March 17, 2024
March 9, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Government of Canada
This news release deals with topics that may cause distress. If you or someone close to you needs support, we encourage you to reach out. Resources are available at canada.ca/mental-health.
Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a complex and deeply personal issue. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring our laws reflect Canadians’ needs, protect those who may be vulnerable, and support autonomy and freedom of choice.
Today, legislation to extend by one year the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID where a person’s sole medical condition is a mental illness (Bill C-39) received Royal Assent and immediately came into force. This means that persons suffering solely from a mental illness will be eligible for MAID as of March 17, 2024.
This one-year extension will provide additional time to prepare for the safe and consistent assessment and provision of MAID in all cases, including where the person’s sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness. It will also allow time for the Government of Canada to fully consider the final report of the Special Joint Committee on MAID, tabled in Parliament on February 15, 2023.
In the meantime, the Government of Canada will continue to work closely with provinces, territories, and the health community to finalize and disseminate key resources. This extension will allow more time to ensure that MAID assessors and providers have the knowledge and tools necessary to appropriately assess requests for MAID from persons suffering solely from a mental illness.
“This issue is both complex and deeply personal. I am grateful to my parliamentary colleagues for having considered and passed this Bill with the urgency it required. We strongly believe that this one-year extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness, until March 17, 2024, will provide sufficient time to ensure our health care system fully protects those who may be vulnerable and supports autonomy and freedom of choice.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., K.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
“As MAID is a very personal and complex issue, this temporary extension will allow more time for regulators, clinicians, and others to better understand and implement guidelines and practices. Thank you to all my parliamentary colleagues who helped pass this legislation to ensure that assessors and providers are prepared and comfortable to support MAID for persons living with a mental illness when it becomes available. More importantly, this will play a crucial role in protecting the most vulnerable while supporting their autonomy.”
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
“The safety and security of Canadians remains at the centre of our actions as we support their individual autonomy. Canadians can be reassured that we are taking a careful and measured approach on the implementation of MAID for people living with a mental illness, so that the proper safeguards are in place to expand the eligibility criteria while protecting vulnerable populations.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
On March 17, 2021, the revised legislation on MAID (former Bill C-7) received Royal Assent and became law. Former Bill C-7 expanded eligibility to MAID to individuals whose death is not reasonably foreseeable and strengthened the safeguards for these applicants. With these changes, individuals whose sole medical condition is a mental illness, and who otherwise meet all eligibility criteria, would not have been eligible for MAID until March 17, 2023. This temporary exclusion was intended to provide the Government of Canada time to consider the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness’ conclusions and recommendations, as well as the findings of the parliamentary Special Joint Committee on MAID.
On May 13, 2022, the Government of Canada tabled the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness’ final report in Parliament. The report sets out 19 recommendations for establishing a MAID regime that addresses questions that may arise in some MAID requests, and particularly where the person requesting MAID’s natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. This includes questions of incurability, irreversibility, capacity, suicidality, and the impact of structural vulnerabilities (structural vulnerabilities being the effects of interactions between a person’s sex, gender, socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, sexuality, or institutional location, with one’s position in society).
On June 22, 2022, the parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying released an interim report on the question of MAID and mental illness. On February 15, 2023, the Committee tabled its final report in Parliament, and provided additional insight regarding MAID requests in complex circumstances, including for persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness. The Committee’s final report was supportive of the one-year extension, which will also allow more time to fully consider all elements of the final report.
In March 2023, MAID practice standards will be ready for uptake by health professional regulators and clinicians. The Government of Canada has appointed a Task Group of experts to develop these MAID practice standards, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, regulatory bodies, and clinicians across Canada.
The Government of Canada is also supporting the development of an accredited Canadian MAID curriculum to support clinician education and training. The curriculum will consist of seven modules, including a module on MAID and Mental Disorders. The launch of the modules will begin in the fall 2023, with the aim for all modules to be available by the end of 2023.
- Fact Sheet: Medical assistance in dying in Canada: Former Bill C-39: Extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for persons suffering solely from mental illness
- News release: Delay of eligibility for medical assistance in dying for persons suffering solely from mental illness proposed by Ministers of Justice and Health (February 2, 2023)
- Statement by Ministers Lametti, Duclos and Bennett on medical assistance in dying in Canada (December 15, 2022)
- Bill C-39: An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)
- Canada’s medical assistance in dying law (Justice Canada)
- Medical assistance in dying in Canada (Health Canada)
- Final Report of the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness
- Medical Assistance in Dying and Mental Disorder as the Sole Underlying Condition: An Interim Report (Interim Report of the Special Joint Committee on MAID) Government’s response to the First Report of the Special Joint Committee on MAID
- Medical Assistance in Canada: Choices for Canadians (Final Report of the Special Joint Committee on MAID)
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice Canada
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Health
Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, Carolyn Bennett
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