Canada’s Justice Minister wants to expand euthanasia to people solely with mental illness

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article by Brian Platt published in the National Post on November 24 reports that on Monday Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti told the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee that is studying Bill C-7, the bill to expand the euthanasia law, that he hopes that someday the euthanasia law will expand to people with mental illness. 

Platt reported that:

Lametti said he believes the government has found the right balance in respecting the dignity of people with disabilities, and also their right to end their life if their suffering is too great.

Lametti also said he hopes the medical assistance in dying (MAID) regime will eventually be further expanded to people who are suffering solely from mental illness, but the government doesn’t have enough time to do it before a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 18 for this bill to pass.

The Canadian government introduced Bill C-7 in February. It claimed it was in response to the September 11, 2019, Quebec Superior Court decision striking down the requirement in the euthanasia law that a person’s “natural death be reasonably foreseeable” for them to be “eligible” to die by MAiD. 

Bill C-7 was re-introduced on October 5, 2020 after parliament returned.

Platt explains 

The critics of Bill C-7 include people with disabilities, palliative care experts and even Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Justice Minister, who steered Bill C-14 through parliament in 2016.

Platt wrote that disability rights group, Inclusion Canada, told the Senate committee that Bill C-7 

“would signal that these Canadians are expendable and threaten their lives, dignity and belonging.”

In the House of Commons, Wilson-Raybould questioned the decision of the government to remove the 10-day reflection period in the law. 

“Nothing in the Truchon decision of the Quebec (court), which the government chose not to appeal, requires this, and the Supreme Court of Canada, in Carter, insisted on the requirement of clear consent,” she said.

“Palliative care physicians, disability advocates and other experts insist that this is an important safeguard.”

Lametti told the Senate committee that the government left euthanasia for mental illness out of legislation for now because “the government doesn’t have enough time to do it before a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 18 for this bill to pass.” 

Platt reported that Lametti stated

“We know that those with mental illness can suffer unbearably, that mental illness can be debilitating and that it can profoundly impact quality of life,” he said. But he said some mental illnesses “present unique, practical and ethical challenges.”

“Unlike most physical illnesses, many mental illnesses follow unpredictable illness trajectories for which there is always the possibility of a sudden improvement or recovery,” he said. “This means that in some experts’ view it is impossible to predict for any given individual whether their symptoms will one day show improvement or endure for the rest of their lives.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition presented testimony to the Senate Justice committee on November 24.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.