Permitting Euthanasia for depression to be debated in Canada

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Tara Brousseau-Snider

Tara Brousseau-Snider

Canada’s parliament will soon debate whether euthanasia should be permitted for psychological suffering.

On February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s assisted suicide law and used language that permits euthanasia. The Supreme Court did not define the terminology but it stated that an assisted death could be permitted for someone who has irremediable pain caused by physical or psychological suffering.

The Supreme Court gave Parliament a year to come up with new legislation, in light of the decision. A special joint Commons committee on physician-assisted dying was created in response. The government recently asked for an extension until June which the high court agreed to.

CBC Manitoba reported on an unnamed Winnipeg woman who is pushing the issue by requesting euthanasia based on psychological suffering.

“[My colleague] told me that if she [the unnamed woman] could get an assisted suicide now, she’d go through with it,” said Tara Brousseau-Snider, executive director of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba,” told Donna Carreiro. “If it was in place, they’d apply for it.”

Brousseau-Snide told CBC Manitoba of her concerns, should the law permit euthanasia for depressed people.

“And I’m very concerned about this law. It’s not a permission-giving thing. Governments should not mandate that if you’re depressed, it’s OK to kill yourself.”

John Melnick told CBC Manitoba that:

“Let’s just say I am glad it wasn’t legal before now,” said Melnick, who’s lived with depression for decades, and tried three times to kill himself.

“Because if [physician-assisted death] was in place then, I likely would have tried to get one. And I wouldn’t be here today.”

Melnick said thanks to a combination of therapies, he is today alive and well.

Queens University philosophy professor, Udo Schuklenk, said that he hopes euthanasia will be approved for depression.

Euthanasia based on psychological suffering is permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Québec. The 2014 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 5,306 assisted deaths with 41 assisted deaths for psychiatric reasons and 81 assisted deaths for dementia in 2014.

In 2015, euthanasia for psychiatric reasons included a healthy 63 year old autistic man who was depressed and felt that he had no reason to live and a healthy woman with tinnitus [ringing in the ears].

There were several controversial Belgian psychiatric euthanasia cases in 2015.

In June, psychiatrist, Dr. Lieve Thienpont approved the euthanasia death of Emily, a 24-year-old physically healthy woman who was living with suicidal ideation.

The good news is that Emily decided to live. In October the euthanasia death of Simona de Moor was done by Dr Van Hooy based on psychological suffering connected to the death of her daughter.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition rejects all forms of assisted death.

Editor’s note. This appeared at