Ottawa (AFP) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government unveiled a bill Thursday that would allow severely ill and dying Canadians to seek medical help in ending their life.
The amendment to the Criminal Code comes one year after the Supreme Court struck down a prohibition against doctor-assisted suicide.
The government was given until June 6, 2016 to draft new legislation that would permit consenting adults with serious health problems to end their suffering.
The protocols are much less comprehensive, however, than proposals put forward by a parliamentary special committee formed to study the controversial issue.
The committee’s 21 recommendations urged that the physician-assisted suicide be available to people, including competent minor and people with mental illness, who suffer with debilitating and irreversible illness.
A person diagnosed with a serious health problem could also make arrangements in advance to die, in situations where dementia or other illness could prevent them from making the decision later, the panel had suggested.
Opposition Conservatives on the committee challenged the recommendations, saying they go far beyond what the court had ordered.
It remains unclear whether the draft legislation will pass before the court’s June deadline.
After much back and forth, political parties have said members of parliament will be free to vote their conscience for or against the bill.
The proposed law would not compel doctors or nurses to provide help to die.
The option would also not be available to foreigners.
Some form of physician-assisted dying is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and in a handful of US states.