Canada’s Justice Minister says that euthanasia may be expanded to include people with mental illness

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Hon. David Lametti

Justice Minister David Lametti told CBC Radio One’s The House that , based on the recent online euthanasia consultation questionnaire , Canadians want more access to  Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)–euthanasia. 

Lametti said:

“There does seem to be a clear tendency that Canadians are largely in agreement that we ought to expand the possibility for medical assistance in dying beyond the end-of-life scenario,” Lametti said. 

“Obviously there are some voices that don’t agree. People living with disabilities can see this as a threat, even an existential threat, and we’re trying to achieve the right balance there to not stigmatize people in that context.”

The CBC Radio One report explained that 

…Lametti said one possible result of making these changes to the law will be to extend MAID to people whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder.

“That certainly is a possibility that’s raised by this expansion,” he said.

Last week I reported that Canada’s online euthanasia consultation questionnaire was a sham and that its data was unreliable. It was a sham because some of the questions assumed that the participant supported euthanasia. The data was unreliable because the online questionnaire did not limit people to participating once. One person told me that they filled out the questionnaire more than 50 times from the same computer. “Canadian (MAID) euthanasia online consultation was a sham and the data is unreliable.

CBC Radio One then interviewed Jocelyn Downie, a long-time pro-euthanasia activist academic who explained that when the Québec Superior Court struck down the “terminal illness” requirement in the law, this enabled access to euthanasia for mental conditions. CBC radio reported:

“When you remove ‘reasonable foreseeability’ from the Criminal Code, as the judge in Quebec did for Quebec, one of the things that happens is that more people with mental disorders as their sole underlying medical condition will now be eligible for MAID,” said Downie, a Dalhousie University law professor who served on the Council of Canadian Academies expert panel that studied MAID.

Sadly, I agree with Downie. When the Québec court struck down the terminal illness requirement in the law that this meant that euthanasia would also permitted for psychological reasons or in cases of mental illness. 

The law originally stated that euthanasia could be done based on physical or psychological suffering, but that a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable. 

By removing the reasonably foreseeable requirement from the law, then euthanasia decisions are then based on physical or psychological suffering alone.

See also “Is euthanasia psychiatric treatment?”

Editor’s  note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted ith permission.