Canada’s new assisted dying law threatens vulnerable citizens, prominent physician writes

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Dr. Sonu Gaind, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, a former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and honorary member of the World Psychiatric Association, leads his hospital MAID [Medical Assistance in Dying] team. He sat on the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on MAID and Mental Illness and wrote a scathing article opposing Bill C-7 which the Liberals in Parliament passed in March 2021.

In his article–New assisted dying law threatens vulnerable citizens – that was published in the Hamilton Spectator on August 17— Gaind states that he came from an immigrant family that came to Canada when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister. He wrote that he found it painful to watch his son, Premier Justin Trudeau, enact legislation that endangers the lives of vulnerable citizens. 

Dr. Gaind wrote:

MAID has been sold as an issue of autonomy and the right to “die with dignity.” But is it true autonomy for the marginalized who will seek death to escape a life they never had the right to live with dignity?

As physician lead of our hospital MAID team, I am keenly aware that suffering does not compartmentalize into neat little boxes. Cumulative life distress fuels MAID requests. Introduced to help avoid painful deaths, MAID in Canada now risks enticing nondying disabled who are marginalized by sexism, racism, ageism or ableism with state-sanctioned death to escape painful lives.

Canada’s reckless MAID expansion has been abetted by disconcerting failures of due diligence. Through consultations on mental illness and dying, Canadian Psychiatric Association leadership never once raised concerns about mental illness related suicide risk or discussed suicide prevention. After giving assurances for a year that C-7 would safeguard against MAID for mental illness, the Liberal government reversed its commitment in February and less than a month later pushed C-7 through parliament. 

Gaind continues by writing about the struggles that Margaret Trudeau, the mother of Justin Trudeau, had with mental illness. He explains how the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights cautioned that Canada’s MAID expansion is grounded in prejudiced ableism assumptions, a clear concern for the disability community. 

He concludes by stating:

To provide increased autonomy to privileged voters who have lived well and want to die well, it seems our current Prime Minister Trudeau is willing to sacrifice marginalized lives of those who never had the chance to live well, and are suffering from life distress during periods of resolvable despair.

… It is not Justin Trudeau’s mother who is at risk, but all of ours.

Thank you Dr. Gaind for sharing your concern for the lives of people who live with mental illness. 

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