Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Justice Minister best to drop euthanasia for mental illness.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

One sign that Canada's euthanasia debate has changed for the better is the recent opinion columns published by the Toronto Star. The Toronto Star has been one of the most prolific promoters of euthanasia.

On February 7, The Toronto Star published an article by columnist Andrew Phillips titled: Justice Minister David Lametti best to drop acute mental distress from MAiD eligibility. On October 14, The Toronto Star published Phillips article: Canada is going to far with MAiD.

Phillips states in his recent article that:
The federal government made it official last week: it will take an extra year to “get it right” on extending MAID (a.k.a. doctor-assisted dying) to people suffering solely from mental illness.

The chorus of concern late last year about the rush to make this legal forced the government to slow things down. People all the way from the pro-life right to the social justice left raised a host of questions. We were hearing about more and more cases where sick people were choosing MAID because of poverty, homelessness and other “social suffering.”

So the delay is good as far as it goes. But let’s be clear: the government is still determined to go ahead with allowing people with “irremediable” suffering from psychiatric illness to demand that the state, through a doctor, put them to death. On Sunday, Justice Minister David Lametti was asked on CBC Radio’s “Cross Country Checkup” whether the government might change its mind and he was unambiguous. “No,” he said flatly. “We are not going to go back.”

The government seems to have convinced itself that the courts have tied its hands on this issue, and that MAID must be provided as a matter of right to those in acute distress from mental illness.

It should think again. It may have backed off for the time being only to quiet the critics. But my bet is that another 12 months of study and debate won’t make this issue go away. On the contrary: it will only deepen concern over the impact of extending doctor-assisted death to more and more categories of people. The government should listen and be prepared to change course

Dr Sonu Gaind
Phillips then quotes Dr. Sonu Gaind, chief of psychiatry at Humber River Hospital who stated on the Cross Country Checkup CBC radio show, concerning MAiD for mental illness that:

it’s basically impossible to know in cases of mental illness whether the condition is truly “irremediable,” i.e. cannot be cured or alleviated. The state of the science, he said, is such that “we cannot make these predictions.”

Lametti has been influenced by Jocelyn Downie and the euthanasia lobby who argue that euthanasia for mental illness must be permitted. The euthanasia lobby also claims there is a "right to euthanasia." Both assertions are wrong. 

Canada's euthanasia legislation lacks effective definition. Euthanasia can be approved for anyone with an irremediable medical condition and irremediable medical condition is not clearly defined. 

The euthanasia law also states that doctors or nurse practitioners only need to be "of the opinion" that a person fits the criteria of the law. Therefore, once someone is dead, doctors and nurse practitioners cannot be prosecuted, even when it seems obvious that the euthanasia death was atrocious. 

People with mental illness experience similar social issues as people with disabilities, that being poverty, homelessness and an inability to receive medical treatment. Permitting euthanasia for people with mental illness will lead to euthanasia for poverty, euthanasia for homelessness and euthanasia based on an inability to receive medical treatment.

Euthanasia is abandonment not autonomy.

1 comment:

Maarten Bokhout said...

On this issue I am in full agreement with the EPCoalition. I do not think that mental illness, which is often poorly defined, poorly recognized and poorly treated, quite often the result of a sick society or circumstances for which society needs to take responsibility (i.e reactive depression as a result of lack of affordable housing), should be considered as a reason for MAiD in Canada.
If we go down this path, I fear that the issue of ''feeble mindedness" will again figure in public policy around this issue. Can the thinking of Nazi Germany, and so-called eugenics, be far behind?

Maarten Bokhout MD, MHSc (ret'd)