Friday, March 5, 2021

Lack of evidence surrounding euthanasia for mental illness debate.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Petition: No to euthanasia for mental illness (Link)

CBC News published an opinion column by Dr Mark Sinyor, a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto concerning the Trudeau government's intent to expand (MAiD) euthanasia to people with psychiatric conditions alone.

Dr Mark Sinyor
Dr Sinyor argues that medicine is evidence based, but the decision by the Senate and the Trudeau government to support the expansion of euthanasia to people with psychiatric conditions alone is politically based. He stated:

I recently had the privilege of testifying before the Senate of Canada in their deliberations about medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation. The specific question before them was whether to allow the practice as a treatment for mental illness, which the Senate voted to recommend following an 18-month "sunset clause," and the House of Commons says it would support with a two-year phase-in.

I have no personal objection to MAID in principle. But as a doctor and a psychiatrist who believes in evidence-based medicine, I found both the hearing and the result horrifying.
Dr Sinyor states that in medical ethics, many policies will have a negative effect on one group of people while having a positive effect on others. But there is no evidence that euthanasia for mental illness will have a positive effect. He stated:
As a scientist, I have to be open to the possibility that all of the claims advanced by MAID advocates are accurate. But enacting law, one which literally governs life or death decisions, based on a possibility isn't good enough.

In other areas of medicine, thoughtful scientists typically devote whole careers to meticulously studying benefits and harms of treatments before rolling them out. Here, that proven approach has inexplicably been replaced with hand-waving and moralizing.

Medical history has shown that when well-meaning people bypass careful science to rush a treatment out before harms are properly understood, it can have disastrous consequences. The opioid epidemic is a tragic, recent example.
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