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Canada continues to be the primary example of where legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide laws lead.

It has become so contentious that last month the Canadian government announced they are hitting pause on further efforts to expand the regime.

It was to be that mental health would be a sole criteria for accessing euthanasia from March this year, but that has now been pushed back to 2027, with the government saying the “health system was not ready for this expansion”.

It’s a welcome, albeit temporary reprieve from the otherwise unstoppable march of Canadian laws towards broader access, looser eligibility, and more people choosing to die for reasons that have nothing to do with suffering or illness.

A recent long piece from The Guardian charts the changes and controversies of the Canadian laws, noting “critics and advocates agree [Canada’s regime] is one of the most liberal in the world”.

The Guardian notes that as the laws have expanded, so have the rates of people choosing euthanasia. The Guardian reports:

In a survey of those 13,102 Canadians who ended their lives under Maid, the vast majority cited the “loss of ability to engage in meaningful life activities” as the reason for wanting to die. But other responses have troubled healthcare experts. More than one-third of respondents said their decision was, in part, informed by a feeling they were a perceived burden on family, friends or caregivers.

This is the deeply troubling development we at HOPE and many other advocates against euthanasia and assisted suicide have said was inevitable.

Once euthanasia and assisted suicide are on the table as a viable option for people, things like feeling like a burden or financial concerns also become relevant considerations.

Doctors who support Canada’s euthanasia regime have spoken out, saying they are not aware of anyone choosing to take the option who doesn’t fit the criteria.

Of course, that leaves unanswered the question of whether or not the “criteria” are suitable given this is a decision a person does not get to reverse.

Health professionals such as Sonu Gaind, chief of psychiatry at Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital, are speaking up. Gaind is fiercely critical of the expansion of the country’s euthanasia laws to allow mental illness as a criterion. He notes that the “country’s push to liberalise suicide has deterred much-needed investment in the ailing healthcare system and reshaped how society thinks about alleviating suffering”:

“This focus on providing easy deaths – curing ‘suffering’ by ending life – I hope it keeps people sensitised to the reality of how people are suffering in different ways.

“Rather than saying the only thing we can do about that suffering is to end life, we should be asking how we can help with the suffering. How can we actually help people live better, help you get access to the care that they need? How can we help people live with dignity?”

Hopefully, this pause on Canada’s euthanasia expansion will give time for these questions to be asked and the serious ethical concerns that have been raised since day one to be taken seriously.