Canadian hospital offers assisted suicide to woman seeking help for suicidal thoughts

Patient seen in the hospital in this undated photo.
Patient seen in the hospital in this undated photo. | Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

A woman who sought psychiatric help at a hospital in Canada said staff made her feel “worthless” by suggesting she end her life through the national healthcare system's Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program as the country seeks to expand eligibility to people suffering from mental illnesses. 

Kathrin Mentler, 37, went to the Vancouver General Hospital’s Access and Assessment Centre in June, hoping to check herself in to protect herself from acting on her suicidal thoughts. During her assessment, the staff informed the Mentler that there were no beds available and that she should expect to wait a long time before a psychiatrist would be available to see her as an outpatient. 

According to The Christian Institute, a clinician then asked Mentler if she had considered MAID. The clinician also spoke with Mentler about feeling “relief” following the death of another patient struggling with mental illness. 

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“That made me feel like my life was worthless or a problem that could be solved if I chose MAID,” Mentler told the U.K.-based Christian watchdog group. 

While the woman confessed that she suffers from chronic suicidal ideation, that hasn’t stopped her from finding joy in life. Mentler also found it strange that the hospital would’ve suggested MAID to her, as people with mental health issues are not eligible for the program until 2024.

The Vancouver General Hospital did not respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment.

However, in a statement to The Christian Institute, the hospital apologized “for any distress caused” and said the offer of assisted suicide is a “matter of procedure” to determine if the patient is a threat to himself or herself. 

As The Christian Post previously reported, Canada legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2016; however, the country limited it to citizens or permanent residents who were at least 18 years old and had "a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability" that included "enduring and intolerable suffering." 

In 2022, the Canadian parliament expanded the law to include non-threatening physical disabilities, and while the program was later expected to expand to people suffering from mental illness on March 17, the Canadian government announced a temporary delay in December. The country now plans to expand eligibility for MAID to people struggling with mental illness on March 17, 2024. 

Charlie Camosy, a medical humanities professor at the Creighton University School of Medicine, warned during a panel discussion at the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America that assisted suicide is a “slippery slope.” Doctors' acceptance of assisted suicide often leads to acceptance of euthanasia for physical distress and, eventually, mental health distress.

"Once you permit it, it's very difficult to keep it where it originally was intended because, medically and morally, it seems unjust to limit it to the particular population for which it was intended," Camosy said. 

One example of an able-bodied individual in Canada requesting to die involved Tyler Dunlop, who requested to end his life because he was homeless and felt that he had no reason to live. As CP reported earlier this year, the man refused the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital’s offers of food, water and shelter to prove that he was serious about the decision. 

"I chose assisted dying because I know I'm not going anywhere," Dunlop told Orillia Matters at the time. "I've been in rehabilitation. I've accessed every resource possible to get better. Some of us can't."

According to an annual report on MAID in Canada for the year 2021, there were 10,064 MAID provisions reported in the country, which accounted for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada. Since the Parliament of Canada legalized assisted suicide in 2016, there have been 31,664 deaths from MAID.  

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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