Will Canada allow people with drug addictions to apply for assisted suicide?

Michelle Budge, Deseret News
Michelle Budge, Deseret News

Will Canada’s impending assisted suicide law expansion allow people with drug addictions to seek medically assisted death?

It seems this will happen, and at a recent conference in Canada, there was discussion around whether this was the right thing to do. Some activists who work with people who have substance use disorders have argued there aren’t enough guardrails or programs to help people with these disorders to allow for this expansion.

The expansion in question has to do with a 2024 law change.


Earlier this year, a Canadian government report recommended that by 2024, people be allowed to request medically assisted suicide solely for mental health reasons. The law was set to change in 2023, but Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti introduced a bill to delay the expansion until March 17, 2024, per BBC.

As substance use disorders are classified as a mental health condition, there’s debate on whether or not they should be included in the upcoming expansion.

At the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine conference, Dr. David Martell, who is a physician lead for Addictions Medicine at Nova Scotia Health, discussed “a framework for assessing people with substance use disorders for MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying law) at the conference,” per Vice News.

Canadians who work with people who have substance use disorders have raised concerns about this possible policy expansion.

“I just think that MAID when it has entered the area around mental health and substance use is really rooted in eugenics,” co-organizer at Toronto Overdose Prevention Society Zoë Dodd told Vice News. “And there are people who are really struggling around substance use and people do not actually get the kind of support and help they need.”

The department of health in Canada issued a statement to Vice News, saying that “a person cannot refuse all or most treatments and automatically render themselves incurable for the purposes of accessing MAID.”

As of October 2023, Canada is set to move forward with the expansion of medically assisted suicide law to include those with mental health conditions, the Toronto Star reported. Some lawmakers are pushing back on the expansion.

Earlier this month, Canadian lawmaker Ed Fast introduced bill C-314 to delay expansion until more research could be conducted. The bill failed to pass, per the Toronto Star.

“Have we gone too far and too fast with Canada’s assisted suicide program? Will we evolve into a culture of death as the preferred option for those who suffer from mental illness or will we choose life?” Fast said when he introduced the bill.