This weekend, The Globe and Mail published a story about Canada’s controversial medical assistance in dying (MAID) law that garnered mixed reaction from readers.
Canada will soon allow medically assisted dying for mental illness. Has there been enough time to get it right?
On March 17 of next year, assisted dying will become legal for Canadians with a mental disorder as their sole condition. When that option arrives, Canada will have one of the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world, joining only a few other countries that allow assisted dying for mental illness.
It will be the most controversial expansion of MAID since a Supreme Court ruling led the federal government to legalize euthanasia in 2016. At that time, MAID was only for patients with a foreseeable death, but Parliament – with Bill C-7 – removed that requirement in 2021.
With four months to go, The Globe’s Erin Anderssen reports that there is still no consensus in the mental health community – and, in fact, doctors remain deeply divided. There are no finalized national standards, no transparent review process in place to watch. Canadians have questions about who will qualify for MAID next year, and whether it’s a good idea to give the most vulnerable an easier way to die.
Globe readers were similarly divided on the topic when our story published. We rounded up a collection of reader reactions – people had plenty to say about their personal stories, their feelings about how this reflects on Canada’s health care system and their general opinions about the MAID law.
From Facebook reader Thomas Nicholls:
How can the mentally ill give informed consent? So if you are depressed and have suicidal thoughts, you should be euthanized? What kind of logic is that? Hard to believe that the psychiatrists in Canada have not uttered a single word about this. Another horrific failure of the health system in this country!
From Globe commenter real doc:
I know of an older woman who was a vibrant health provider all of her life, had a concussion and subsequent depression who was discharged from the psych unit and had MAID a day or two later without any consultation with family or her family doctor who would have all opined that she was not acting in her usual capacity. It seems its going to be easier to put somebody down by MAID than treat them. Its really an indictment of our system and nothing to be proud of.
From Globe commenter Bodlizkin:
Unpopular opinion - but based on most comments, do people ever think we’ve put too much emphasis on being moral (re: treatment of drug users, criminals) at the cost of society writ large from a wholistic standpoint? I think MAID for mental health makes sense if there are proper checks and balances so it’s not abused. Otherwise it’s a huge cost to the individual, society, and their families.
From Globe commenter tip2:
The treatment of mental health is expensive and continues to grow. Most people that need therapy can't afford it. Regardless of other solid reasons to support MAID, this may be the single biggest motivator for the government, to take this issue out of the spotlight, that they've let these people down in a system that is supposed to provide universal healthcare.
From Globe commenter J steele5:
My takeaway from this article is that there is no easy answer to this issue. It sounds incredibly complex and as a result we are guaranteed to make mistakes along the way. But I am glad that it is even a thing here and glad that it is being advanced. Mostly because we seem to think that mental illness is not an illness the same way any other illness is. There is an assumption that people will somehow get better. And that can be true, but just like other illnesses sometimes that is not true.