Monday, March 14, 2016

Senator Denise Batters: Help the mentally ill. Don’t kill them

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Senator Denise Batters
The National Post featured a guest column, on March 14, 2016, by Senator Denise Batters concerning her opposition to the legalization of euthanasia for people with psychiatric issues. Senator Batters is a lawyer and a mental health advocate.

Previous article by Senator Batters.

Batters was widowed when Dave Batters, her husband, died by suicide in 2009 while he was a sitting member of parliament. Senator Batters experience with her husband's suicide led her to strongly oppose euthanasia for people who live with psychological suffering.

Senator Batters writes in her National Post column:

Questions surrounding suicide are deeply personal to me. I lost my husband, former member of Parliament Dave Batters, to suicide in 2009, after his struggle with severe anxiety and depression. In the years following his death, I have worked to raise awareness and dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. That has included communicating to those struggling with mental illness, particularly with those who harbour thoughts of suicide, to encourage them not to give up, but to instead reach out for help. 
This is why I have reacted so strongly against the recent majority report of the joint parliamentary committee studying physician-assisted suicide. Polls show that most Canadians agree with physician-assisted suicide, but usually those poll questions (and Canadians) assume that only those with terminal illnesses would be given the option. Canadians want strict safeguards on who is eligible for assisted dying and legislators have the responsibility to provide that clarity. The committee report failed to provide either. Instead, it threw open the door to a number of shocking scenarios.
Senator Batters then comments on the Committee report:
The committee did not require that illness be terminal or life-threatening. It included psychological suffering as grounds for physician-assisted death — without any requirement to consult a psychiatrist. It even recommended extending physician-assisted suicide to “mature minors,” those under 18. ... 
The committee argued that physical and psychological illnesses are essentially the same. But, the only evidence it cited was a one-line opinion from a brief letter, emailed by an individual who did not appear before the committee and had no identifiable credentials or expertise in the area. This is not “evidence-based decision-making.”
Senator Batters then explains why Psychological suffering is different than physical suffering:
Psychological suffering on its own is not terminal. It is usually treatable, can be episodic and demands a far more complex decision-making process, particularly in determining patient consent. 
Significant gaps currently exist in our mental health system, including a lack of access to treatment, long wait lists and insufficient training for health-care providers. ... 
Delivering the means to suicide straight into the hands of mentally ill individuals directly contradicts the suicide prevention standard in the mental health field. How can we expect mental health caregivers to advocate suicide prevention on one hand, while signing the death warrant for a mentally ill patient with the other? 
The preservation of hope for mentally ill people is absolutely paramount. Those who endure psychological suffering need our support, our resources and our promise that we will never give up on them, even when they can see no other option but to give up on themselves.
Senator Batters completes the article by sharing her personal experiences:
I have lived for almost seven years now without my husband. I have picked up the pieces and moved forward, trying to create something meaningful out of our personal tragedy. And yet, not a day goes by when I don’t wonder if there might have been another way out for Dave — another counsellor, another medical treatment, another conversation that might have made the difference. Because of the finality of his choice, I will never know. 
I don’t want more Canadian families to know that kind of pain. In good conscience, we cannot allow physician-assisted suicide to become just another option for those who struggle with mental illness.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling, physician-assisted suicide will be part of our reality in Canada. But if you believe it should only apply in cases of terminal illness, and not to minors or those who are mentally ill, we need to make our voices heard on this issue — and fast. Please contact your local MP and tell them where you stand. The lives of our vulnerable loved ones might just depend on it.
Please participate in the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition post-card campaign to members of parliament. It is even better to send letters to your member of parliament. The list of members of parliament.

1 comment:

M DEAKIN said...

Thank you so very much Senator.You are a powerful voice for those vulnerable people who are still needing our help and support.
We also need to help our medical people and stand with them so they can continue without fear to heal and not kill.Healing being their life work.
As you mentined how can we ask staff to sign one commitment to heal and support and at the same time tell them they must practise assisted killing.
May God grant each and everyone one us the wisdom we need for our decisions that affect ourselves,our loved ones and people we may never have the opportunity to know ,love and support.
Mary Helen Deakin