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Feds must decide whether ‘all Canadians’ have right to assisted dying: senator

OTTAWA — A senator who pushed for people with mental illness to be able to seek a medically assisted death says the federal government must decide whether it will “allow all Canadians” their choice of end-of-life care.

Medical assistance in dying has been legal in Canada since 2016 and five years later, Parliament approved expanding the eligibility criteria to include those with a mental disorder as their sole underlying condition.

Sen. Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist from Nova Scotia, had argued in favour of that expansion, which was set to take effect in March 2023 before being delayed a year in the face of concerns over possible consequences.

A joint committee of parliamentarians was asked last fall to study the question whether the health-care system was ready and the Liberals now face the choice of whether to go ahead with broadening the rules.

Justice Minister Arif Virani told The Canadian Press last month he would look carefully at what the committee recommends, opening the door to once again pausing the plan to broaden the rules.

Kutcher, who sat on the committee, says he believes the courts have ruled Canadians should have access to medical assistance in dying on a case-by-case basis, and that he expects Canada’s attorney general “would adhere to the Charter.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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