MPs open door to the mentally ill being able to use medically-assisted suicide in the future

Critics call decision ‘shameful’

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Critics of euthanasia in Canada say it is shameful that the federal Liberal government with the help of the Bloc Quebecois decided to put a time limit on debate on a matter of life and death that opens the door to the mentally ill in Canada being allowed to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.

Allowing the mentally ill access Canada’s medically-assisted euthanasia system was not originally supported by the federal Liberal government, but after that was a made a requirement for support by the Senate, the federal government used closure to force a vote in the House of Commons March 12.

MPs in the House of Commons voted 180-149 on March 12 to accept the mentally ill being eligible for what is called “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD) in the future, in order to secure the Senate’s support for Bill C-7.

The bill was supported in the House of Commons by most Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MPs who want the law changed so that it complies with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that said limiting euthanasia to only Canadians whose death was already “reasonably foreseeable” was too restrictive.

Senators wanted the federal government to eliminate a blanket ban on the mentally ill being unable to receive medically-assisted death. The federal government, with the support of the Bloc, agreed to allow the mentally ill access to euthanasia/assisted-suicide in two years — after further study and safeguards can be reviewed.

The changes that make it easier for Canadians to legally commit suicide with the help of a doctor has been slammed by most organizations that advocate on behalf of disabled Canadians and groups that advocate on behalf of the mentally ill as well.

“While the federal government was noting the 11th anniversary of Canada’s signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 thereby making MAiD available to healthy people with disabilities,” a statement released by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said.

“In the case of mental illness, MAiD is a permanent lethal solution for a temporary situation,” said Jewelles Smith, a spokesperson for the Council.

According to a statement released by the Council on March 15, “the MAiD regime that will be authorized by the bill will put vulnerable people with disabilities in harm’s way by making it easier to access medical aid in dying.”

“While many people with disabilities cannot access the disability-related supports that they need to live dignified lives in the community, they will be able to get MAiD. Even people experiencing a mental health crisis will have access to MAID,” the Council’s statement continued.

“We are extremely concerned that people with disabilities experiencing a temporary crisis will accept MAiD and die needlessly,” said Smith.

An organization that works with the mentally ill and presented a position paper to Parliament regarding medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia, said that opening up MAiD to the mentally ill is a mistake without more evidence of what exactly constitutes mental illness.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a psychiatric teaching hospital in Ontario, said in its position paper that the “CAMH came to the decision that the federal government should not make an amendment to MAiD legislation for people with mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition at this time due to a lack of evidence that mental illness is an irremediable medical condition.”

“This was not an easy decision for CAMH to come to,” the CAMH statement to Parliament said. “As psychiatrists, we cannot stay out of it. We cannot ignore, avoid, or just rubber stamp our patients’ requests for MAiD. This is not only because of the ‘medical’ in MAiD but also because of our duty to advocate for the best evidence-informed care for our clients.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s Alex Schadenberg said opening the door to the mentally ill being able to access medically-assisted death is “shameful,” but it does expose what opponents of MAiD have been saying all along — once you open the door to legal euthanasia it will continue to expand to cover more and more Canadians.

“The damage has been done but there is good news,” said Schadenberg.

“Almost universally, people with disabilities recognized that Bill C-7 directly affects them. Many medical professionals responded to Bill C-7, especially since the law is out-of-control without even providing them with effective conscience protections,” he said.

The fact is that the Liberal government, the BQ and the euthanasia lobby have clearly told Canadians where they stand. They are not concerned about the lives of people with disabilities or those who live with chronic conditions. They are not concerned about people who struggle with mental illness or other psychological conditions. They are not concerned about people who are at a vulnerable time of their life.”