TORONTO (AP) — Canada’s new assisted suicide law will only apply to Canadians and permanent residents, meaning Americans won’t be able to travel to Canada to die.
A senior government official told The Associated Press visitors will be excluded under the new law to be announced Thursday, precluding the prospect of suicide tourism. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details ahead of the announcement.
The official said to take advantage of the law the person would have to be eligible for health services in Canada.
The law also excludes the mentally ill and does not permit advance requests to end one’s life in the future.
Canada’s Supreme Court last year 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. New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government asked for a four month extension to come up with the new law. Canada’s justice and health ministers are due to announce details on Thursday.
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Colombia, Japan and in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg allow doctors, under strict conditions, to euthanize 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 offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
Last year’s ruling immediately triggered emotional responses from both sides of the debate.
The decision was spurred by cases brought by the families of two British Columbia women, who have since died. The decision reversed a Canadian Supreme Court ruling in 1993. At the time, the justices were primarily concerned that vulnerable people could not be properly protected under physician-assisted suicide. But the top court said last year that doctors are capable of assessing the competence of patients to consent, and found there is no evidence that the elderly or people with disabilities are vulnerable to being talked into ending their lives.
It has been more than 20 years since the case of another patient with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Sue Rodriguez, gripped Canada as she fought for the right to assisted suicide. She lost her appeal but took her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor in 1994, at the age of 44.