Canada is postponing a plan to offer people suffering from mental illnesses the option of a medically assisted death, two cabinet ministers said on Monday.

The announcement by Mark Holland, the health minister, and Arif Virani, the justice minister, came after a special parliamentary committee looking into the plan concluded that there are not enough doctors, particularly psychiatrists, in the country to assess patients with mental illnesses who want to end their lives and to help them do so.

“The system needs to be ready, and we need to get it right,” Mr. Holland told reporters. “It’s clear from the conversations we’ve had that the system is not ready, and we need more time.”

Neither minister offered any timeline for the latest extension. Following an earlier delay, the expansion had been scheduled to come into effect on March 17.

Canada already offers medically assisted death to terminally and chronically ill people, but the plan to extend the program to people with mental illnesses has divided Canadians.

Some critics say the plan is a consequence of the inability of Canada’s public health care system to offer adequate psychiatric care, which is chronically underfunded and facing demand that outstrips its availability.


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