Canada’s Government Introduces Bill To Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide

April 14, 2016

The Canadian government has introduced a long-awaited bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

The measure limits the option to the incurably ill, requires medical approval and mandates a 15-day waiting period.

More than a year ago, Canada’s Supreme Court struck down a ban on assisted suicide and instructed the legislature to write a new law. The newly unveiled legislation, which is being advocated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, needs to pass the House of Commons and the Senate to become law.

The bill introduced Thursday lays out the conditions under which some people would be able to obtain a doctor’s help in dying. A patient must:

  • Be eligible for government-funded health care (a requirement limiting assisted suicides to Canadians and permanent residents, to prevent suicide tourism).
  • Be a mentally competent adult 18 or older.
  • Have a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability.
  • Be in an “advanced state of irreversible decline,” with enduring and intolerable suffering.
  • Have a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death (though no specific timeline is required).

Then, reports NPR’s Dan Karpenchuk, “a written request would be needed, signed by two independent witnesses — and there would have to be more than one medical evaluation and a mandatory 15-day waiting period.”

Dan says it’s widely expected that the proposed bill will face opposition from two directions — from those who object to physician-assisted suicide at all, and those who think the law doesn’t go far enough in granting people the right to die.

The law was written after Trudeau assembled a special committee to examine the issue and write a report recommending how Canada could best legislate physician-assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court had originally given a one-year deadline for such a law, The New York Times reports, but the previous Conservative government didn’t make much progress. The court extended the deadline when Trudeau’s Liberal party took over, and legislators have until June to pass a law.

The issue is personal for Trudeau, as he told the CBC radio show “As It Happens” in February.

Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, died in 2000; he had prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

The prime minister says his father would have liked to end his life with dignity.

“Having suffered the death of my youngest brother Michel just two years before his own passing, he had sort of felt it was time for him to let go,” Trudeau told As It Happens.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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