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Little appetite to amend assisted dying bill

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OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is open to improving its controversial bill on medically-assisted dying but so far the Liberal-dominated committee examining the legislation is showing little appetite for amendments.

Liberal MPs used their majority on the Commons’ justice committee yesterday to reject proposed amendments from the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Green Party that would have made the bill more permissive.

They included proposals to eliminate the requirement that a person must be close to death and to expand the bill to allow people with competence-eroding conditions like dementia to make advance requests for an assisted death.

But Liberals also rejected multiple proposed amendments by Conservative MPs that would have made the bill more restrictive.

Among the Tory amendments shot down were proposals to require that every application for medical assistance in dying be approved by a judge, to require the minister of health to sign off on applications, and to require psychological assessments of applicants.

Others would have stipulated that only someone with a terminal disease would be eligible—and only once they’re deemed to have less than 30 days to live.

Earlier yesterday, Trudeau, who has promised a free vote on the bill and has vowed to empower committees, told a news conference that his government is “always open to good ideas and to making improvements to bills.”

He said the government would review opposition proposals on the assisted dying bill and may consider some of them.

However, Liberals on the committee later concluded that only two of roughly three dozen proposed amendments—one from the Conservatives and one from the Liberals, both relatively minor—would improve a bill they appear to have decided strikes the right balance.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May tried and failed to win support for several amendments aimed at removing restrictive conditions that the bill would impose on a person’s eligibility for an assisted death—conditions that many legal experts have said fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.

“Please pass at least one opposition amendment to C-14,” May pleaded at one point.

“I think it will improve our sense of a healthy democracy.”

Her plea fell on deaf ears.

The committee will continue making its way through some 100 proposed amendments today.

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