Canada backs down on plans to help depressed people commit suicide

The Canadian Government has been severely criticised over plans to liberalise assisted suicide and euthanasia laws to help those with mental health problems kill themselves.

The country already has some of the world’s most permissive laws and has come in for heavy international censure as more and more shocking stories emerge of Canadians being offered euthanasia – which the law dubs “Medical Assistance in Dying”.

The Canadian Government was planning to further expand the law next year to give those with mental health problems the means to kill themselves. However, this has now been paused following concerns from clinicians.

‘Hearing loss’

Canada legalised euthanasia in limited circumstances in 2016. But it quickly scrapped the requirement for a person to be terminally ill so that disabled people can request that a doctor kill them.

In one case, a man was euthanised without his family’s knowledge and with his only recorded health complaint being ‘hearing loss’.

Global News Canada reported that a military veteran was unexpectedly offered assisted suicide by a Government employee when he sought support for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

‘Flawed legislation’

Human rights campaigners have said the law lacks safeguards and devalues the lives of disabled people.

Canada’s Shadow Minister for Democratic Reform, Michael Cooper, said: “Instead of listening to persons with disabilities and advocates for vulnerable Canadians, the Liberal government has sidestepped them at every turn and pushed their flawed legislation through the process.”

He added: “Literal life-or-death legislation deserves thorough review and consultation to ensure the most vulnerable people are protected.”

Devalues diabled people

Professor of Law and Disability Studies at the Protestant University for Applied Sciences in Germany, Theresia Degener, warned that allowing euthanasia based exclusively on disability was a clear human rights violation.

Prof Degener said the implication of the law in Canada is that “life with disability is automatically less worth living and that in some cases, death is preferable”.

Head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission Marie-Claude Landry said she shares the “grave concern” voiced by UN human rights experts that Canada’s euthanasia law appeared to violate the agency’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The experts said the law has a “discriminatory impact” on disabled people and is inconsistent with the country’s obligations to uphold human rights standards.

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