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People with disabilities need more federal supports to deter requests for assisted dying, committee says

A parliamentary committee has made 23 recommendations to improve Canada’s assisted-dying regime.

Members of the committee held 36 meetings, heard from nearly 150 witnesses and reviewed more than 350 briefs on the medically assisted dying program.

It is recommending the Liberal government improve access to palliative care and boost financial support for people with disabilities.

Without more financial supports and better access to social supports, the report says, “persons with disabilities might see (medical assistance in dying) as a way to relieve suffering due to poverty and lack of services.”

The report also recommends better engagement with Indigenous communities and persons with disabilities on how Canada’s assisted-dying program works.

It says the federal government should convene an expert panel to “study and report on the needs of persons with disabilities” as they relate to medically-assisted death.

The report recommends developing a system that harmonizes access to the program across Canada.

It also says Health Canada should do a review of “promising therapies, such as psilocybin, for both research purposes and for individual use as part of palliative care supports.”

It supports a proposed delay to expanding the eligibility for medical assistance in dying to Canadians whose sole condition is a mental disorder.

Members of Parliament are expected to pass a government bill this sitting to delay that expansion until March 2024.

Minister of Justice David Lametti and Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti introduced a bill this month that would delay the expansion of medical assistance in dying. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The report recommends that another joint parliamentary committee be created five months before that “in order to verify the degree of preparedness attained for a safe and adequate application of MAID.”

The recommendations also include funding to research the views and experiences of minors when it comes to assisted dying.

Another recommendation says Canada should “amend the eligibility criteria for MAID set out in the Criminal Code to include minors deemed to have the requisite decision-making capacity upon assessment.”

Parliamentarians also recommend the federal government appoint an independent expert panel to evaluate Criminal Code provisions for assisted death for “mature minors” but restrict access to those “whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.”

The Conservatives offered a dissenting opinion in the report, saying they cannot endorse every recommendation, including those related to mature minors.

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