Myths and Facts about MAiD (euthanasia) for Mental Illness

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Editor’s note. Just after we posted this story, Mr. Schadenberg reported that “Canada’s Senate passed Bill C-7, the bill to expand Canada’s euthanasia law, with amendments to further expand the law.”

Possibly the best article ever written about Canada’s Bill C-7 and the push to expand MAiD (euthanasia and assisted suicide) in Canada via Bill C-7, was recently written and published by psychiatrist Dr. John Maher. The title is ”MAiD for Mental Illness: Myths and Facts.”

Maher responds to the key issues related to Bill C-7 and the proposed amendments to Bill C-7 by Canada’s Senate

The amended version of Bill C-7 will be voted-on in the Senate. It will then go back to Parliament. Parliament will then vote on the Senate amendments to the bill.

Similar to Dr Maher, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition questions the audacity of Canada’s Parliament and Senate who are expanding Canada’s MAiD regime before doing the legislated review of the law.

Dr. Maher deals with the key issues related to MAiD in general and MAiD for mental illness in particular. He begins, “The proposed legislation removes the ‘death being reasonably foreseeable’ requirement and is opening the door for physician assisted suicide for people who are not terminally ill.”

Maher follows a format of presenting the myth and responding with the fact or answer. For instance:

Myth: MAiD [Medical Assistance in Dying] is consistent with each doctor’s professional obligation to practice according to established standards of care. 

Fact: MAiD for mental illness makes the doctor a consumer controlled tool of death rather than an expert supporting healing and reducing suffering. Of grave concern is the effort of some legislators to allow MAiD for mental illness without any statutory requirement that all standard or reasonable treatments have been tried before the patient is killed. The law as it stands says it is completely up to the person to decide if they are suffering unbearably and they can refuse standard treatments that might help them heal or cope. To allow people to choose death over and above proffered treatments for their illness is an unprecedented undermining of basic medical ethics and a physician’s duty to use their clinical skill and judgment to practice in accord with established standards of care. A doctor cannot support offering death when treatment is untried or incomplete. Against such an unheard-of legislative backdrop, what safeguards can possibly work?

Myth: MAiD is not suicide. 

Fact: The Canadian government defines suicide simply and clearly as, “the intentional action of ending one’s life”. MAID is suicide. The American Association of Suicidology does not support the claim that MAID is not suicide, except in the context of terminal illness. Those who claim suicide is impulsive and violent, while MAID is well thought out, peaceful, and dignified, are arbitrarily redefining what suicide is. Social engineering always begins with language engineering. 

Suicide is taking steps to cause your own death, whatever the steps. 75% of people plan their suicide, and many are completed with care and consideration of the impact on first responders and others. The characterization of all suicides as compelled, impulsive, and violent is factually wrong and perpetuates media stereotypes. What is clear is that suicide is a raw agony for loved ones. The trappings of medical comfort and the mutual pretense of moral exoneration that the staging of the MAID event promises cannot diminish this sorrow. In fact, it can serve to inflame the wound through the betrayal by both medicine and state.

Dr. Maher has written an excellent article that needs to be shared.

The Senate is expected to pass Bill C-7 with amendments to allow euthanasia for mental illness and for incompetent people who requested it in an advanced directive. 

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