Thursday, April 1, 2021

I’d be dead if C-7 was law 10 years ago

This article was published in the April 2021 edition of the Interim

Andrew Lawton
Andrew Lawton

Well, this one is personal for me. If Bill C-7 were the law of the land a decade ago, I’d probably be dead.

Bill C-7 is product of the federal Liberal government’s efforts to expand access to assisted suicide. Supporters of the bill argue it’s necessary after the Superior Court of Quebec identified supposed deficiencies in the current assisted suicide regime. While the court’s Truchon decision did raise issues, it’s noteworthy that the federal government opted not to appeal this to the Supreme Court, and has now embraced changes that go far beyond what the court called for.

The most egregious of these is the expansion of assisted suicide access to people suffering solely from mental illnesses. Prohibiting these people from having their deaths facilitated by the state was recognized as an essential safeguard when the existing framework was established nearly five years ago.

Now, this protection is on the way out, along with the mandatory 10-day waiting period and need for two independent witnesses, among other changes.

Inclusion of the mental health provision in C-7 is vile for its own reasons, but all the more so when one looks at the process by which it came to be. The Liberals assured critics it would not be in the bill, which means there was no real study or investigation of it as Bill C-7 made its way through the rigorous committee review stage. It was slipped in by the Liberal-dominated Senate, and summarily accepted by Justin Trudeau’s government with the support of the Bloc Quebecois, despite united opposition from the Conservatives and NDP.

This is precisely what was warned about when Canada was in the process of passing Bill C-14 in 2016, only to be told that concerns about future laxing of the rules amounted to slippery slope paranoia.

As Conservative MP Garnett Genuis said in a recent interview, we’re sliding down that slippery slope right now.

In 2010, I nearly succeeded in committing suicide. My battle with depression was worsening, and I was losing. Miraculously, I pulled through: I count my lack of success in that attempt as my happiest failure, for which I’m grateful to God’s intervention and a team of dedicated healthcare practitioners.

It’s saddening to think that under different circumstances, these practitioners could have been the ones killing me rather than saving me.

C-7 is predicated on the idea that restricting access to assisted suicide is discriminatory. This inherently positions assisted suicide as a right, so it’s not unforeseeable that there will be future challenges if doctors start turning down requests from those with mental illness.

My depression was grievous and, while treatable, technically incurable. I have little doubt I could have rationally and clearly conveyed to a doctor that I wanted out. I had certainly convinced myself that my death was the only sensible outcome – my choice was between death or a life of pain. Recovery and hope were not on the menu.

I was wrong. Here I am living a life I never imagined was possible. This is the tricky thing about mental illness – your mind plays tricks on you, and deprives you of a holistic appreciation for what life can offer.

I was always resistant to the “it gets better” platitude, until I learned in my own recovery that it does. At the same time, I won’t trivialize anyone’s struggles, knowing how hard and long the path is, especially for those whose experiences are worse than my own.

What all mental illnesses have in common is that they exist in the mind. This doesn’t mean they’re not real, but rather that by design they have a way of distorting one’s thinking and sense of reality.

Bill C-7 undermines years of attention and billions of dollars of funding to bolster mental illness treatments and supports, including, ironically, suicide prevention and awareness campaigns and programs.

This bill kills hope and reinforces the flawed belief afflicting those with mental illness, that life is not worth living and that one’s circumstances cannot improve.

This is why lawmakers of all parties previously saw a mental illness exclusion for assisted suicide as not just a good idea, but a given.

Until now, that is.

Previous article by Andrew Lawton.
  • Suicide is a symptom of mental illness. Not a cure for it (Link).


John the Mad said...

This is a powerful post. The medical profession is the one sliding down a slippery slope into a moral abyss, a process begun with the legalization of abortion. Doctors have abandoned the Hippocratic oath to do no harm. Many now see killing their patients as a good. Utterly demonic.

Angie said...

Very very sad, but true. Human life is not being valued like it should be. What has our world come to? So many do not see how wrong this is.

john c. simpson said...

Dear Friends:

I hope this isn't too long. It's an article I wrote for a local publication. Like Mr. Lawton, my daughter would be dead many times over if this vile bill had been passed twenty years ago.

Dear Sir:

There is an unfortunate and offensive expression which conveys the idea that incompetent people have been set a task which they are utterly incapable of performing, to wit "putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum." Tragically, this is precisely what we have seen with the recent approval by the House and Senate of assisted suicide for the mentally ill. Do these arrogant and ill-informed politicians not understand that those suffering from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are mentally ill because their insight is impaired?
A last will and testament may be legally set aside if it can be shown that the testator had not been of sound mind and sober judgement at the time he executed the document. Surely that same standard ought to apply when a person's very life hangs in the balance.
Promoters of assisted suicide argue that a psychiatrist would be able to distinguish between a desire for death which has been carefully thought out by the logically operating mind of a mentally ill person during a remission of his illness and such a desire which is simply a manifestation of that illness. I am certainly not acquainted with any psychiatrist (I know quite a few) who would presume to decide whether a person should live or die in accordance with his interpretation of the shifting and ephemeral vagaries of his patient’s diseased mind. Remember, the insight of one who suffers from one of these perverse disorders has been seriously impaired; he may well be unable to comprehend the finality of death.
Let's consider a hypothetical scenario: we are among a crowd on a city street looking upward toward the roof of a multi-story building where an obviously highly distraught woman is teetering on the very edge of that roof. Tragically, she leaps forward and plummets to her death before our eyes. We are of course, overwhelmed both by the graphic spectacle which we have just observed and by feelings of grief because the woman had found her life so intolerable that she was driven to end it.
But what if we have it all wrong? If the unfortunate woman suffered from schizophrenia, she might well have believed that she was being pursued by hostile space aliens bent upon torturing and murdering her. She may have leaped forward from that roof in the belief that she could escape by jumping to the roof of a nearby building. Rather than trying to take her life, she was desperately trying to save it.
Finally, our scientists are working every day to develop newer and more sophisticated medications; during my lifetime (I’m 80) chemical treatment for schizophrenia has evolved from crude, debilitating barbiturates and Haldol to the advanced compounds we have today. Furthermore, impressive advances have been made in cognitive and behavioral therapies. How do we know that that “magic bullet” is not just around the corner?
Let’s not liquidate our mentally ill simply because they are inconvenient.

John C. Simpson

Melody said...

So now it will be even scarier to go to the hospital....right when you need actual care, you can't count on it when you most need it. When your mind is not functioning properly, you are facing even greater danger. Thanks Trudeau et al. I guess this doesn't affect you. I think you ought to be ashamed.

Unknown said...

Thank you, John. This is excellent.

Unknown said...

I live with mental illness that is treatable, but not curable. There have been ups and downs, but finding a psychiatrist who finally diagnosed me correctly and found a combination of medication that works was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It probably even saved our marriage. He reminds me that there is always hope. It might not be readily apparent, but it is always there. What a cruel joke to allow suicidal people with mental illness (much less the terminally or chronically ill) to ask for death.