The Canadian government has approved its assisted dying legislation, after the Senate backed off a bid to expand access beyond those who suffer from a terminal illness.
In a vote on Friday, Canada's upper chamber approved the final piece of legislation sent back to it by the House of Commons, by a vote 44 to 28. Once it receives royal assent, it will be law.
Doctor assisted suicide has been technically legal in Canada since June 6, which is the date in which a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the ban on doctor-assisted death took effect.
The Senate had already considered Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's proposed legislation, and sent it back to the House of Commons with a number of amendments, including the sticking point for the governing Liberals. It sought to replace a provision that only allowed patients near death, or where death is "reasonably foreseeable" to qualify for a medically-assisted death with a provision that allowed anyone with a "grievous and irremediable medical condition" access to the same option "after the condition has begun to cause enduring suffering that is intolerable to the person."
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was firm in the government's opposition to that amendment, arguing that expanding the reach of the law could mean people with "any serious medical condition, whether it be a soldier with PTSD, a young person with a spinal cord injury, or a survivor whose memory is haunted with memories of sexual abuse" would be eligible to end their lives with the help of a physician or a healthcare provider.
"We respect the Senate's perspective ... but we do not want to affect the fundamental balance that we achieved in this piece of legislation between protecting vulnerable Canadians and allowing for rights and freedoms," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference in British Columbia this week.
The Senate's passage of the bill was met with quick criticism.
In a statement, the BC Civil Liberties Association, which fought in the initial Supreme Court legal challenge, said the government's legislation "allows terminal patients to ease their death with a doctor's assistance, but eliminates the right of non-terminal patients to escape years and decades of torturous pain."
"This will trap them in suffering, and may cause people to take their own lives prematurely while they remain physically capable of doing so," argued Josh Paterson, executive director of the BCCLA, a "cruel consequence" that he said the Supreme Court has already ruled is unconstitutional.
Canada joins other jurisdictions such as The Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland, all of which have their own rules around doctor-assisted suicide.
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