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Oh Canada — mental illness shouldn’t be a death warrant


Government officials assure Canadians that when euthanasia laws further expand to include mental health as a sole condition this March, people suffering from depression will never qualify.

We would be foolish to believe them.

Since the criminal code of Canada was changed to legalize medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in 2016, there have been 44,598 reported deaths. The number of MAiD deaths jumped by more than 30% in 2022 after MAiD’s expansion from irremediable conditions to include illness, disease or disabilities that cause unbearable suffering.

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How many more Canadians will die in the days and weeks ahead as people suffering from a host of mental health issues get access to the procedure?

When asked about what MAiD for mental health will mean for suffering Canadians, the office of Charles Sousa, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Lakeshore, assured that as it expands further “we are not talking about providing MAiD to people who are depressed and having suicidal thoughts.” Sousa’s party voted against and helped defeat a recent bill that would have stopped MAiD expansion into mental health.

Chandra Ayra, the Liberal MP for Nepean wrote in an email that, “MAID is NOT for depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts ... Eligibility for MAID with a mental disorder as the sole reason will be very rare. It will be available only to those with long-standing disorders treated by a psychiatrist (NOT for autism) and only after all remedies have been tried.”

While elected officials assure Canadians that suffering from conditions like depression and other mental health conditions will not qualify for euthanasia, psychiatrists and mental health advocates disagree. A group of Canadian psychiatrists, including those involved with MAiD, recently warned that doctors who assess and approve assisted suicide on the basis of mental health “will be wrong over half the time … and will instead provide death to marginalized suicidal individuals who could have improved.”

Perhaps what is even more alarming is the comfort level with euthanasia in Canadian society. Recent reports highlight that a high percentage of Canadians are “fine” to see MAiD prescribed for homelessness. When coupled with reports that the doctors who assess patients’ eligibility for MAiD approve the procedure for conditions not directly related to their medical conditions — conditions like poverty — Canadians should take pause.

In just a few short years, Canada has become a MAiD-permissive culture, reframing euthanasia as medicine, not murder. And after expanding to mental health, the regime will continue to widen its doors. There are further recommendations that the government expand MAiD to minors as young as twelve without parental consent and to allow individuals to get pre-approved for euthanasia should they develop medical conditions like dementia in the future.

Canadians ought to brace themselves for a terrible collision of growing mental health challenges, an overburdened medical system, and a cultural acceptance of doctor-assisted suicide as viable healthcare. This is increasingly about death on demand. MAiD is becoming a too-final solution for underlying issues that require a range of responses — social support, medical treatments, and compassion, to name a few — rather than a life-ending drug.

If doctors are ending the lives of Canadians suffering from poverty, government officials cannot in good faith assure that doctors won’t end the lives of Canadians suffering from depression and other issues that can be treated. In March 2024 — a few short weeks away — the medical community will assist Canadians who suffer from mental health issues not only with suicide prevention, but suicide completion.

Tragically, the message being sent by Canada to the world is this: "Give us your disabled, your poor, your huddled masses of homeless, your mentally ill. We will help them die.”

Andrew Kooman is a Canadian writer of the weekly column Things I Wrote Down. He co-produced the docuseries MAiD in Canada, which explores the expanding euthanasia regime. You can watch the series for free at UnveilTV.

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