Saturday 18 January 2020

Canada's new assisted suicide law to exclude visitors

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said "it is important to respect the choices made by Canadians" (AP)

Canada has introduced a new assisted suicide law that will only apply to Canadians and residents.

Visitors will be excluded under the proposed law announced on Thursday, precluding the prospect of suicide tourism.

Canadian government officials said the person would have to be eligible for health services in Canada to be able to take advantage of the law.

The law provides a choice "for adults who are suffering intolerably and for whom death is reasonably foreseeable".

It says the person must be mentally competent, 18 or older, have a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.

Last year, Canada's Supreme Court struck down laws that bar doctors from helping someone die, but put the ruling on hold while the government came up with a new law.

The proposed law still requires approval in parliament, but is expected to pass as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government controls the majority of seats.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Colombia, Japan and the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana.

California lawmakers also passed legislation, expected to take effect later this year, where proof of California residency is required.

Germany's law applies to Germans and foreigners alike. Switzerland's law is valid for everyone in Switzerland, and people who take part in assisted suicides are not required to be residents or citizens, according to Justice Ministry spokesman Bernardo Stadelmann.

The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg allow doctors, under strict conditions, to euthanise patients whose medical conditions have been judged hopeless and who are in great pain.

Canada's Supreme Court declared last year that outlawing that option deprives dying people of their dignity and autonomy.

It had been illegal in Canada to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, an offence carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Quebec already passed legislation last year after the court's decision. And since the top court ruling, Canadian judges elsewhere have given individual patients permission for assisted deaths.

To get a doctor's help under the law, a written request is required, either from the patient or a designated person if the patient is incapable, and the request would need to be signed by two independent witnesses.

Two independent doctors or authorised nurse practitioners would have to evaluate it and there would be a mandatory 15-day waiting period unless death or loss of capacity to consent was imminent.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the law will ensure that dying patients who are suffering unbearable pain have the choice of a peaceful death and that the vulnerable are protected.

"This will have a positive, significant impact on the lives of Canadians," Mr Trudeau said. "It is important to respect the choices made by Canadians."

PA Media

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