The Canadian government led by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced legislation to permit voluntary euthanasia for Canadians suffering from serious medical conditions. Under the proposed new law, people who wish to died will be able legally to have an assisted death using drugs provided by their physicians, and administered by those physicians, by family members or by themselves.
The legislation would apply only to adults who are mentally competent, who have a serious, terminal condition and who are “suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable.” Each case would have to be assessed by two independent doctors; if the doctors objected to participating in euthanasia, they would nonetheless be obliged to refer their patients to another doctor who did not.
At a press conference in Ottawa, Justice Minister Jodi Wilson-Raybould said some would inevitably find the legislation “troubling”, but added that “for others, it won’t go far enough.” The law, she went on, would allow “competent adults to apply for a peaceful death instead of the prolonged, frightening, undignified deaths that they may otherwise face.”
Voluntary euthanasia would only be available to Canadians and Canadian residents under the law. Patients from the US and elsewhere would not be able to travel to Canada for an assisted suicide, which is legal in some form in several other countries including Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Colombia and Japan. It is also legal in a handful of US states including Oregon, New Mexico, Montana and Vermont.
The Canadian Supreme Court overturned a ban on assisted suicide in February 2015, but the previous Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper – and backed by religious groups – opposed voluntary euthanasia and declined to introduce new legislation. Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party was elected to power in a landslide last October. The government has said it will allow Liberal MPs to vote freely on the controversial law, but given the party’s large parliamentary majority, it is expected to pass comfortably.
Mr Trudeau has said he came to support assisted death after experiencing the painful decline of his own father, former Canadian leader Pierre Trudeau, who died in 2000 after suffering from prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
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