Parliament to re-examine the expansion of euthanasia to people with mental illness

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Stephanie Levitz reported on October 18 for the Toronto Star that after Bill C-314 was defeated all members of Parliament agreed:

“to recall the special joint committee on medical assistance in dying (MAID) to provide further oversight. The move came after a failed effort by a Conservative MP to repeal access to MAID for people whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder.”

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is pleased that the government will consider further oversight of the law, however, we are not confident that the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, which is stacked with pro-euthanasia MP’s and Senators, will offer any substantive changes.

Bill C-314, the Mental Health Protection Act, sponsored by the Hon. Ed Fast (CPC), was narrowly defeated by a vote of 167 to 150 at second reading in Parliament on Wednesday October 18, 2023.

The Bill C-314 vote indicated that the Parliament of Canada is divided on the issue of euthanasia for mental illness with EVERY Conservative, New Democratic Party, and Green MP and 8 Liberal MPs voting YES.

Bill C-314 would have protected people who are living with mental illness from medical assistance in dying (euthanasia). The latest Angus Reid Institute survey indicates that only 28% of Canadians support euthanasia for mental illness while 82% of Canadians stated that mental health care should be improved before euthanasia for mental illness is considered. 

Many groups supported Bill C-314 including the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Society of Canadian Psychiatry.

Levitz reported that the Bill C-314 vote indicated that the issue had changed in parliament with 8 Liberal MPs and every NDP MP voting YES on Bill C-314.

The Hon. Ed Fast, sponsor of Bill C-314, stated in his press release:

“Conservatives will continue to fight for those who are left behind by this legislation, and we will not support the expansion of MAID to include mental illness,”

“Have we gone too far and too fast with Canada’s assisted suicide program? Will we evolve into a culture of death as the preferred option for those who suffer from mental illness or will we choose life?”

The Special Joint Committee will release their report on January 31, 2024.