Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Ottawa, April 14: The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation today to legalise physician-assisted suicide for Canadians with serious medical conditions.
The proposed law limits physician-assisted suicides to Canadians and residents, who are eligible to participate in the national health care system, preventing a surge in medical tourism among the dying from other countries. Assisted suicide is legal in only a few American states, including Oregon and Vermont.
Under Canada's proposed law, people who want to die will be able to either commit suicide with medication provided by their doctors or have the doctors administer the dose. Family members will be allowed to assist patients with their death.
It is likely the legislation will pass, given the Liberal Party's strong majority in the House of Commons. However, the government has promised to further study the issue after the legislation is passed and may make changes to the system.
"For some, medical assistance in dying will be troubling," said Jody Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister, at a news conference today. "For others, this legislation will not go far enough."
The bill would restrict assisted deaths to adults and would not, in the current version, allow people to request assisted death before they develop a serious or terminal medical condition.
Doctors will not be required to help people die, but they must refer patients to another physician if they have an objection to participating.
Deaths will only be permitted following assessments by two independent physicians.
If the bill passes, Canada will join a group of countries that permit some form of assisted suicide including Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.
The Supreme Court of Canada overturned a criminal ban against assisted suicide in February 2015, giving the previous government led by Stephen Harper one year to introduce a new law. But his Conservative Party strongly opposed assisted death and did little to deal with the issue.
After Trudeau and his Liberal Party came into power, the Supreme Court extended its deadline until June.
Criminal law is a federal matter in Canada. But when it became apparent that the Conservative government was not acting on the court's ruling, Quebec used its powers over health care to introduce a system for assisted dying in that province late last year. Judges in other parts of Canada have also given individual patients permission for assisted deaths.
Last year, the Supreme Court concluded that it was unconstitutional to deny the option of assisted death to consenting adults who had "a grievous and irremediable medical condition" that has brought on "suffering that is intolerable".
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE