Is Canada expanding medical assistance in dying too quickly?

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In this episode: Justice Minister David Lametti, Toronto Star investigative reporter Rob Cribb, family physician Nav Persaud, Toronto resident Michael Fraser who died with MAID this summer, Conservative MP Michael Cooper, New Democrat MP Alistair MacGregor, Toronto Star political journalist Jacques Gallant, Professor Brian Mishara, Director of the Center for Research and Intervention on Suicide, Ethical Issues and End-of-Life Practices at the Université du Québec in Montreal, Dr. Derryck Smith, Clinical Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Dr. John Maher, Psychiatrist with the Barrie and South Georgian Bay Community Treatment Team and Chair of the Ontario Association for ACT & FACT, Mark Henick, a mental health advocate, family physician Dr. Arundhati Dhara and Elizabeth Sheehy, a professor emeritus of law at the University of Ottawa. Hosted by Althia Raj

If you are having suicidal thoughts, there is help. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service can be reached at 1-833-456-4566 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year or online at www.crisisservicescanada.ca. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.

This week, in “It’s Politics,” we address some of the issues surrounding the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID) in Canada. Since 2016, Canadians with a terminal physical illness can die on their own terms. In 2021, after a ruling by the Quebec Court of Appeal, the law expanded to include people whose death was not reasonably foreseeable. In March, the system will expand again to offer people with only mental illness the option of choosing MAID. This change, coupled with reports of people seeking MAID primarily because they lack access to adequate support or live in poverty, has led several medical experts and politicians to call on the government to press the pause button.

First, we will bring you the story of a Toronto man named Michael Fraser who died using MAID this summer. Toronto Star investigative reporter Rob Cribb and Fraser’s doctor, Nav Persaud, tell us about some of the complex and intertwined issues that Fraser’s choice highlights. This audio documentary includes footage of Fraser, collected by Charlie Buckley, Thea Gribilas and Declan Keogh of the Office of Investigative Journalism.

Next, we will check with two members of Parliament who sit on the joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons responsible for reviewing the Criminal Code provisions relating to medical assistance in dying. This includes issues relating to the expansion of MAID to persons with mental illness and mature minors, as well as the possibility of including advance requests, while examining the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with Disabilities. It’s an incredibly broad mandate, with many different viewpoints, as you’ll see. The committee has a quick timeline to complete its work — it’s expected to report back in February.

Next, we’ll sit down with Justice Minister David Lametti for his thoughts on the expansion of MAID and some of the cracks we see developing in the system.

Listen here and follow or subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Thanks this week to Charlie Buckley, Thea Gribilas and Declan Keogh of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for collecting the footage of Michael Fraser. Some footage also comes from ParlVu, CityNews and CTV.

“It’s Political” is produced by Althia Raj and Michal Stein. Sean Pattendon masterfully mixes the program. Our theme music is by Isaac Joel.

Althia Raj is an Ottawa-based national politics columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @althiaraj

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