Challenges Ahead as Canada Misses Deadline for Assisted Death Law

Challenges Ahead as Canada Misses Deadline for Assisted Death Law

The Canadian government acknowledged it would miss the June 6 deadline to introduce a new law allowing medically-assisted death. Extremely sick patients will continue to struggle in finding doctors willing to help end their lives.

Canada’s Supreme Court overruled a ban on physician-assisted suicide last year, offering a deadline to create a new law for the controversial practice.

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the discussion, the political debate dragged on for so long that the draft legislation wasn’t complete in time. That means months before a potential new law is adopted, and that’s before any (likely) legal challenges, too.

“Unfortunately, despite tremendous effort, this bill is not yet in place,” Health Minister Jane Philpott said on Monday.

Without an encompassing federal law, it’s on the 10 Canadian provinces to individually govern physician-assisted suicide. Philpott predicts this will a patchwork of different rules.

“Doctors may have inadequate legal protection, and I expect that in these early days, many physicians will be extremely reluctant to provide assistance to patients wanting medical assistance in dying,” she told a health conference.

Doctors can help a patient die starting June 7, but only if the disposed adult is under intolerable physical or psychological suffering from an incurable medical condition. The Liberals drafted this law, though it’s extremely narrow; proposals covering minors, the mentally ill and those who are not suffering from a terminal disease are rejected.

The bill is now before the Senate upper chamber, where they’ll introduce additional amendments to broaden the scope of the legislation.

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