Canada is “not ready” to expand eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to people with mental health as their sole medical condition, Health Minister Mark Holland said Monday.
Holland said the government agrees with a joint parliamentary committee report released earlier Monday that reached the same conclusion, and that assisted death should only be offered to such patients when it can be “safely and adequately provided.”
The minister said the government plans to table a response to the report in the coming days that will ask for more time to implement the change, but did not say how much time the government will be asking for beyond the current March deadline.
“We agree with the conclusion that the committee has come to that the system is, at this time, not ready and more time is required,” Holland told reporters.
The government had been facing a March 17 deadline to expand eligibility for assisted death to people whose only medical condition is a mental illness.
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The Liberals had already legislated a one-year delay last year to enact the expansion, saying at the time that medical providers and provinces needed more time to prepare.
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An additional delay would also need to be legislated, this time before the current March 17, deadline, which Holland and Justice Minister Arif Virani acknowledged puts pressure on Parliament to move quickly.
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“The legislative time frame is tight. We recognize that. This has to be done in advance of (March 17),” Holland said.
“I don’t see the timeline being a barrier but we do need to move expeditiously.”
The joint committee’s final report, tabled just moments before Holland and Virani appeared on Parliament Hill, concluded that fundamental issues around the expansion have not yet been resolved.
It said that it heard “conflicting testimony” and that a year before any expansion does take place, the committee should be struck again to delve into whether enough progress has been made.
Conservative MPs and senators on the committee said in a dissenting report that it would be “reckless and dangerous” for the Liberal government to allow the scheduled change to take place in March.
They are asking the Liberals to abandon the expansion altogether.
—With files from the Canadian Press
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