Letter to the editor: Medical assistance in dying should not be extended to the mentally ill

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Offering MAID to people with mental illness asks us to support our loved ones in their desire to die rather than helping them to live well

There is only one year left before medical assistance in dying (MAID) will again be significantly expanded in Canada. Although Canada already has some of the lesser safeguards in place for MAID, it will be readily available to Canadians with mental illness on March 17, 2023, unless Parliament changes the law before then.

Parliament has already extended MAID beyond its original end-of-life target. It now encompasses disability and chronic illness, even when death is not reasonably foreseeable. The addition of mental illness to the scope of MAID means it can be offered to a mother who struggles with depression, a grandfather who suffers from dementia or a wide variety of other Canadians.

Supporting people with mental illness means providing suicide prevention and supportive care for all. Offering MAID to people with mental illness asks us to support our loved ones in their desire to die rather than helping them to live well.

“Many Canadians have spoken about the need for more and better mental health supports,” said Daniel Zekveld, policy analyst for ARPA Canada. “The key question that arises when offering MAID for mental illness is whether we can effectively advocate for mental health supports for people with mental illness while offering suicide as a legal option for the same people. The point is, we can’t – that would be wrongly normalizing suicide as a solution to mental illness.

Healthcare professionals have expressed concern over this expansion. This will influence the desire to die in those who suffer, as they may feel that their mental illness is incurable and that their life is hopeless.

The extension of MAID to people with mental illness is deeply concerning and will have tragic consequences, even if unintended. That’s why ARPA Canada launched the Care Not Kill campaign, calling on the federal government to repeal the extension of MAID to people with mental illness. They only have one year left to do so. They must act now.

Colin Postma

Federal Manager for the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada

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