In October, MP Ed Fast’s private member’s Bill C-314 was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 150 to 167. This bill would have amended the Criminal Code “to provide that a mental disorder is not a grievous and irremediable medical condition for which a person could receive medical assistance in dying.” If only nine MPs had changed their “no” to “yes,” the bill would have passed.
If there is some encouragement to be had, it is that the vote was so close. As a result, all parties agreed to recall the special joint committee on medical assistance in dying to provide further oversight to the implementation of MAiD for mental illness.
According to the Government of Canada’s website, MAiD for mental illness “includes conditions that are primarily within the domain of psychiatry, such as depression and personality disorders. It does not include neurocognitive and neurodevelopmental disorders, or other conditions that may affect cognitive abilities.” But here’s the challenge, the basis for expanding MAiD beyond its original 2016 legislation was that restricting MAiD to only those that were terminal and near death was discrimination against those who were not terminal or near death; that not allowing MAiD for people with disabilities was discrimination against people with disabilities; that allowing MAiD for people with a physical illness or disability, but not for those with a mental illness, is discrimination against those with a mental illness. To think that only some mental illnesses will qualify, and others won’t, is to ignore the reality of how MAiD has expanded in Canada thus far, with a commitment “to the equality rights of all Canadians.” Canada is already the least restrictive country in the world when it comes to euthanasia and assisted suicide. And come March 2024, when MAiD is allowed for mental illness, it’s about to get a whole lot worse, particularly since it is easier and quicker to access MAiD than it is to access support services. What message does it send when the very health care system that should be providing help, care, and support for living is offering, even promoting, death? The good news is that each one of us can make a difference in our own spheres of influence by caring about those around us, by helping people see that their lives have value, and by advocating for treatment, not MAiD. What people really need is hope and that is something each one of us can give to those around us. In addition, I encourage you to contact your MP, as well as the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, at: Name House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6 No postage is required. Although Bill C-314 was defeated, we still have time to influence recommendations by the reconstituted special joint committee on medical assistance in dying, prior to January 31st. Let’s do what we can. -Susan Penner