The Government of Canada introduces legislation to delay Medical Assistance in Dying expansion by 3 years
This news release deals with topics that may cause distress. If you or someone close to you needs support, resources are available at Canada.ca/mental-health.
February 1, 2024 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada
Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a very personal choice and a deeply sensitive topic. In Canada, MAID may be an option for some people who are suffering intolerably due to an eligible medical condition. The Government of Canada recognizes that mental illness can cause the same level of suffering as that of physical illnesses.
Under Canada's current MAID law, people suffering solely from a mental illness who meet all the eligibility criteria and safeguards would have been eligible for MAID as of March 17, 2024. Important progress has been made to prepare for MAID eligibility for persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness. However, in its consultations with the provinces, territories, medical professionals, people with lived experience and other stakeholders, the Government of Canada has heard – and agrees – that the health system is not yet ready for this expansion.
That is why today, the Honourable Mark Holland, Minister of Health, who was joined by the Honourable Ya'ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, and the Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation proposing to extend the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID for persons suffering solely from a mental illness for three years. This extension would provide more time for provinces and territories to prepare their health care systems, including the development of policies, standards, guidance and additional resources to assess and provide MAID in situations where a person's sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness. It would also provide practitioners with more time to participate in training and become familiar with available supports, guidelines and standards.
This proposed delay is also in line with the recommendations of the Special Joint Committee on MAID (AMAD) in their report MAID and Mental Disorders: The Road Ahead, which was tabled on January 29, 2024. While recognizing that considerable progress has been made in preparing for the expansion of eligibility for persons suffering solely from a mental illness, AMAD recommended that it not be made available in Canada until the health care system can safely and adequately provide MAID for these cases.
The Government of Canada is also proposing that a joint parliamentary committee undertake a comprehensive review relating to the eligibility for MAID of persons whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness, within two years after the Act receives royal assent. This measure would further serve to examine progress made by provinces, territories, and partners, in achieving overall health care system readiness.
The Government of Canada is committed to a measured, thoughtful and compassionate approach to help ensure Canada's MAID system meets the needs of people in Canada, protects those who may be vulnerable, and supports autonomy and freedom of choice of individuals. We will continue to work with the provinces and territories, medical professionals, people with lived experiences, and other stakeholders to support the safe implementation of MAID, with appropriate safeguards in place, to affirm and protect the inherent and equal value of every person's life.
"Significant progress has been made in supporting practitioners in assessing MAID eligibility in complex cases. However, after extensive consultations with key health system partners and provinces and territories, and the report of the Special Joint Committee, we have heard loud and clear that the health system is not yet ready for MAID where the sole underlying condition is mental illness. By introducing this legislation, we are going to ensure that our MAID system is measured, thoughtful and compassionate, while we work with partners to ensure future readiness."
The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health Canada
"We know that mental illness can cause real suffering. That's why supporting the mental health and well-being of people in Canada remains a priority for our government. We will continue to work with provinces, territories and stakeholders to be there for individuals and communities across the country who need help. For those who need support, please visit Canada.ca/mental-health to access mental health and substance use supports and services, available both where you live and virtually. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call or text 9-8-8."
The Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
"Medical assistance in dying remains a very complex and deeply personal issue. We must ensure our health care system is prepared to fully protect and support those who may be vulnerable. After thoughtful consideration, we believe an additional extension, until March 17, 2027, is necessary. The healthcare system must first be ready to safely provide MAID to persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness before that access can be granted."
The Honourable Arif Virani, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
On October 24, 2023, Health Canada released the Fourth Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2022 containing data providing insights into MAID assessment and delivery in Canada.
On September 13, 2023, the Government of Canada announced the launch of the Canadian MAID Curriculum for licensed physicians and nurse practitioners across the country, which was developed by the Canadian Association for MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP). To date, more than 1100 clinicians have registered for the program.
On March 27, 2023, the Government of Canada supported the release of the Model Practice Standard for MAID and the companion document Advice to the Profession, developed by an Expert Practice Standard Task Group convened by Health Canada. The existing Model Practice Standards and the training modules developed by the Canadian Association for MAID Assessors and Providers are key to ensuring that MAID can be appropriately assessed in complex cases, which includes those where a mental illness is the sole underlying condition.
On March 9, 2023, Bill C-39, legislation to extend the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID where a person's sole medical condition is a mental illness, received Royal Assent. The legislation extended the exclusion by one year, to March 17, 2024.
On May 13, 2022, the Government of Canada tabled the Final Report of the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness 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.
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Department of Justice
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