Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Euthanasia for mental illness should never come to pass

The following article was published by the Vancouver Sun on January 29, 2024.

By Kurt Goddard the executive director of Legal and Public Affairs at Inclusion Canada.

Canada’s plan to expand of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those with mental illnesses is a profound and dangerous shift in our societal values, one that risks reinforcing deep-seated ableist beliefs and attitudes. We must never go down this path.

My perspective is both personal and professional.

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

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

Inclusion Canada strives to build a Canada in which people with intellectual disabilities are equally valued. This has necessitated fighting back against the discriminatory aspects of Canada’s current assisted dying law, as came into effect in 2021.

I didn’t anticipate at the time that the Senate would subsequently suggest adding a “sunset clause” to Bill C-7, the assisted dying legislation, to make assisted suicide in Canada a sanctioned option for people with a mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition as of March 17th, 2024 — without the need for any further action by Parliamentarians.

A just released report from the Special Joint Committee on MAiD (AMAD) has recommended that Canada not go 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 timeline, though it does specify that the AMAD committee should be re-constituted one year before it coming into effect.

My preference would be that MAiD for mental illness never comes to pass.

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

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

She once looked at me with desperation, expressing a wish for an end to her suffering in a way that was both shocking and heart-wrenching. This moment reminds me of the profound complexities surrounding mental illness. Her illness fluctuated; we later experienced many positive moments and memories.

Sharing this is not easy, but I feel it’s necessary to illustrate the stakes involved in the discussion on assisted suicide for mental illnesses.

The loss of my father to suicide was a profound rupture in my life and to my family. It’s a type of grief that is difficult to articulate, resonating through every aspect of our lives and leaving a lasting impact that we’re still navigating

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

This personal tragedy has given me a unique perspective on the immense pain and far-reaching consequences that follow in the wake of such loss. It’s 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 unease against the expansion of MAiD, highlighting the alarming rise in assisted deaths in Canada, especially with vague justifications like “multiple co-morbidities” often linked to aging.

Experts have spoken to the lack of consensus in the psychiatric community about what constitutes an “irremediable mental condition” and pointed out the inadequacy of safeguards in the current MAiD framework for mental illnesses.State-assisted suicide must never be the answer to gaps in treatments 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 both sat 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 also endorsing policies that facilitate state-assisted 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, stands as a testament to the need for policies that seek to solve these complex social problems — and not at the cost of losing Canadians to death by MAiD.

Please join me in demanding policies that uphold our Canadian values of dignity and compassion. We need our elected officials to take swift action — to prevent MAiD for mental illness from ever going forward as scheduled — for families like mine.

1 comment:

Monica said...

As a person with a physical disability, I am appalled with the acceptance of other forms of assisted suicide other than mental health. While I understand MAid for people with terminal illness within a year or less, I do not understand euthanasia for people that their death is not imminent. Last summer I was in the hospital and my lungs collapsed due to pneumonia. I was also given a drug overdose that landed me in the ICU. After a few weeks on the very intense Bipap machine, they wanted to shut off the machine that was helping me breath. Thank God for my family advocated for me. When I could, I kept saying I want to live! My lungs slowly inflate again and the staff was surprised at how hard I fought, and how long I managed to stay on the machine. Apparently, I stayed on the machine longer than anyone else they had in the ICU. I feel they wanted me to give up. MAid has put our equality back decades in that some people don't think our lives are worth fighting for IMHO.