MAiD for mental illness should not be the answer to gaps in treatment

Opinion: Experts emphasize the unpredictable nature of mental illness and its potential for recovery. State-assisted suicide should not be the answer to gaps in treatment and support.

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Canada’s plan to expand Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those with mental illness is a profound and dangerous shift in our societal values, one that risks reinforcing deeply held ableist beliefs and attitudes. We should never follow this path.

My perspective is both personal and professional.

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My father’s public and violent suicide in 2010 left me grappling with unspeakable pain and questions, while my mother’s complicated mental illness revealed both vitality and darkness.

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As executive director of Legal and Public Affairs at Inclusion Canada, an organization that works to promote the full inclusion and human rights of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, I have also spent years urging our legislators to address the issue of assistance medical. in dying (MAiD) through a disability rights lens.

Inclusion Canada strives to build a Canada where people with intellectual disabilities are valued equally. This has made it necessary to fight against the discriminatory aspects of Canada’s current assisted dying law, which came into force in 2021.

I did not anticipate at the time that the Senate would later suggest adding a “sunset clause” to Bill C-7, the assisted dying legislation, to make assisted suicide in Canada an authorized option for people with a mental illness as the only one. underlying disease. medical condition as of March 17, 2024 – without the need for any additional action by parliamentarians.

A just-released report from the Special Joint Committee on MAiD (AMAD) has recommended that Canada not move forward with MAiD for mental illness until there is agreement from key stakeholders that “it can be done safely.” The report does not provide an alternative timetable, although it does specify that the AMAD committee should be reconstituted one year before it comes into force.

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My preference would be for MAiD for mental illness to never be done.

In the face of a divided psychiatric community and political dissent, promoting state-assisted suicide for mental illness is unsustainable. It’s time to stop this rushed legislation. We must reject assisted suicide as a solution to mental health problems.

I am haunted by a particularly difficult memory of my mother during a serious episode of her illness.

Once he looked at me in despair and expressed his desire to end his suffering in a way that was both shocking and heartbreaking. This moment reminds me of the deep complexities surrounding mental illness. His illness fluctuated; Later we lived many positive moments and memories.

Sharing this is not easy, but I think it is necessary to illustrate what is at stake in the debate on assisted suicide in mental illness.

The loss of my father to suicide was a profound rupture in my life and that of my family. It is a difficult type of grief to articulate, one that resonates in every aspect of our lives and leaves a lasting impact that we are still working through.

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His absence has been a constant reminder of the devastation that suicide, assisted or not, can cause.

This personal tragedy has given me a unique perspective on the immense pain and far-reaching consequences that follow such a loss. It is a perspective that informs my stance on assisted suicide policies, underscoring the need for careful consideration and compassionate understanding.

Editorials in major Canadian newspapers have echoed my discomfort with the expansion of MAiD, highlighting the alarming increase in assisted deaths in Canada, especially with vague justifications such as “multiple comorbidities” often related to aging.

Experts have spoken of the lack of consensus in the psychiatric community on what constitutes an “irremediable mental condition” and have pointed out the insufficiency of safeguards in the current MAiD framework for mental illness. State-assisted suicide should never be the answer to treatment gaps. and support. A Senate committee recently admitted that Canada’s suicide prevention framework has failed to have a significant impact. It is interesting to note that Senator Kutcher served on the suicide prevention committee and was the senator who introduced the amendment to Bill C-7 to include MAiD for mental illness. How can we promote suicide prevention while supporting policies that facilitate state assistance? suicide? This question plagues our current approach to mental health and assisted dying. We must confront these paradoxes head-on with a lens of compassion and responsibility.

My family’s story, marred by tragedy and resilience, is a testament to the need for policies that seek to solve these complex social problems, and not at the cost of losing Canadians to MAiD.

Join me in demanding policies that uphold our Canadian values ​​of dignity and compassion. We need our elected officials to take quick action to prevent MAiD for mental illness from happening as scheduled for families like mine.

Kurt Goddard is the Executive Director of Legal and Public Affairs at Inclusion Canada.

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