Changes to the Law: Extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for persons suffering solely from mental illness
On March 9, 2023, the extension of the temporary exclusion of eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAID) received Royal Assent and came into force, postponing the eligibility date for persons suffering solely from mental illness until March 17, 2024.
On February 2, 2023, the Government of Canada introduced legislation (former Bill C-39) to extend the temporary exclusion of eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAID) where a person’s sole medical condition is a mental illness by one year.
Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law was revised through former Bill C-7 in March 2021, in response to the Superior Court of Québec’s Truchon decision, which found the “reasonable foreseeability of natural death” eligibility criteria in the Criminal Code, as well as the “end-of-life” criterion from Québec’s Act Respecting End-of-Life Care, to be unconstitutional. The revisions in former Bill C-7 were also informed by Canada’s experience with MAID, including feedback from over 300,000 Canadians, experts, practitioners, stakeholders, provinces and territories provided during consultations, and the testimony of over 120 expert witnesses heard throughout the Bill’s study by the House of Commons and the Senate.
Changes to the law in March 2021 included specific eligibility criteria for persons whose death is not reasonably foreseeable but who meet all other eligibility requirements, as well as new and strengthened procedural safeguards for these requests. Former Bill C-7 also delayed eligibility for two years—until March 17, 2023—for persons suffering solely from a mental illness.
What has changed under the law?
Former Bill C-39 amended Canada’s MAID law by extending the temporary exclusion of eligibility for MAID where a person’s sole medical condition is a mental illness for a period of one year, until March 17, 2024. This means that persons suffering solely from a mental illness will be eligible for MAID in Canada as of March 17, 2024.
Why is this extension needed?
Since revisions to the MAID law came into force in 2021, some experts and Canadians have voiced concerns about the safe and consistent assessment of requests and provision of MAID in the complex circumstances where a person’s death is not reasonably foreseeable, including where the sole medical condition is a mental illness.
Extending eligibility for MAID to persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness is complex, and we need to get this right to protect those who may be vulnerable, and to also support autonomy and freedom of choice.
Former Bill C-39 provides more time for:
- dissemination and uptake of key resources, such as MAID practice standards and MAID education and training curriculum, by the medical and nursing communities, to ensure MAID assessors and providers are able to assess requests for MAID for persons suffering solely from a mental illness in a safe and consistent manner across Canada
- consideration of recommendations provided in the Special Joint Committee on MAID’s final report, alongside the recommendations of the Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness
For more information on MAID in Canada, visit Health Canada’s MAID webpage (https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying.html).
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