Feds launch review of unaddressed assisted dying issues

Government will review advance requests, mature minors, and people suffering strictly from mental illnesses

Michele Constantini/Getty Images

Michele Constantini/Getty Images

OTTAWA — The federal government has initiated the promised review of three controversial issues that weren’t addressed in its restrictive new law governing medical assistance in dying: advance requests, mature minors and people suffering strictly from mental illnesses.

It has engaged the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct independent reviews of each issue and report back by December 2018.

The council, created in 2005 with an endowment from the federal government, bills itself as an independent, not-for-profit organization that performs expert assessments of the science that’s relevant to the development of public policy in Canada.

The government promised to initiate reviews of each of the three issues within 180 days of its new law on assisted dying going into effect last June.

The law allows assisted dying only for consenting adults “in an advanced stage of irreversible decline” from a serious and “incurable” disease, illness or disability and for whom natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

It does not allow for advance requests for an assisted death by those suffering from dementia or other competence-eroding conditions and it does not apply to mature minors or to anyone who is suffering strictly from mental illness.

Those three issues were not specifically addressed in the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 2015, which struck down the absolute ban on assisted dying.

The new federal law’s near-death proviso is already the subject of a constitutional challenge. It is more restrictive than the top court’s directive that medical assistance in dying should be available to clearly consenting, competent adults with “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions that are causing enduring suffering that they find intolerable.

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