Quebec suspends plan to make assisted dying open to people with mental illness

The Quebec government has put on hold its plan to allow medically assisted death to people with severe mental illness as it seeks more input from experts on the issue.

Health Minister Danielle McCann announced last week that the government would comply with a Quebec Superior Court decision that struck down the “end-of-life” requirement in Quebec’s law on medically assisted death.

The same judgment invalidated the “reasonably foreseeable natural death” requirement of the federal Criminal Code.

McCann’s announcement meant that as of March 12, medically assisted death would be accessible in Quebec to people with mental illnesses, as well as others with incurable but not terminal symptoms.

That sparked concern the government was pushing ahead with a major change without thinking through the consequences.

On Monday, McCann said she has decided to take “a pause” on allowing assisted dying to people with mental health problems.

“I’m very sensitive to what has come out in the last few days,” she told reporters.

“We need to have a social consensus around this question.”

McCann said those with neurodegenerative problems, but without a foreseeable death, will still be eligible for assisted death starting March 12, in compliance with the court ruling.

That includes Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, two Montrealers who successfully challenged the province’s law.

McCann said a public consultation will take place next month. The minister is holding a one-day forum today in Montreal with provincial stakeholders ahead of the consultations.

Ottawa also revising law

The federal government is also working to comply with the Quebec Superior Court ruling, even though it only applies to Quebec.

Ottawa is seeking views through an online questionnaire, closing Jan. 27, on how the law should be changed.

Federal cabinet ministers are, as well, holding in-person discussions with experts across the country.


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