Assisted dying
Canada legalises physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients suffering from grave mental and physical tortureShaun Best/Reuters

The Canadian Parliament has passed a bill on Friday that will allow patients with incurable diseases facing acute mental and physical torture to end their lives with the assistance of a physician.

The controversial bill on physician-assisted death – also termed as euthanasia or mercy killing – was introduced in Parliament in April by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau-led government.

The passage of the bill makes Canada one of the few countries in the world – like Belgium, Switzerland, Germany – where euthanasia is legalised. In a joint statement issued to announce the new law, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Dr Jane Philpott said the move will now ensure "safe and consistent access to medical assistance in dying across Canada".

However, many supporters of euthanasia termed the bill too restrictive, arguing that the text in the bill restricts people with degenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, from seeking medically-assisted death.

"The legislation strikes the right balance between personal autonomy for those seeking access to medically assisted dying and protecting the vulnerable........The measures included in the legislation revise the Criminal Code to exempt health care practitioners who provide, or help to provide, medical assistance in dying from otherwise applicable criminal offences," both the ministers said, noting that the new law has been drafted to comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They also said that the new law "recognizes the jurisdiction of provinces and territories" with respect to the delivery of health care services.

The new legislation was drafted in response to a Supreme Court ruling that had struck down the former laws prohibiting assisted dying. The ministers said that research on the subject will continue as the law comes into force.

Noting that the passage of the bill was not "the last step in this journey", the ministers assured that the law will be revised based on further study with regard to physician-assisted suicide for mature minors – people for whom mental illness is the sole underlying condition.