By Kim Schwartz, Texas Righto Life
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party recently voted down a bill that aimed to prevent the state from euthanizing mentally ill Canadians. The bill, introduced by Conservative lawmaker Ed Fast as private members bill C-314, sought to amend Canada’s Criminal Code, asserting that a mental disorder should not be considered a grievous and irremediable medical condition eligible for assisted suicide.
Fast’s argument centered around the importance of providing vulnerable citizens with suicide prevention counseling rather than allowing the state to facilitate their deaths. He warned that Canada’s medical assistance in dying [MAID] regime would normalize euthanasia as a solution for those suffering from mental disorders, including depression, where suicidal ideation could be a symptom.
Despite strong opposition from Fast and his supporters, Trudeau and the majority of Liberal Party members, along with the Bloc Quebecois, voted against the bill, leading to its defeat in a close vote of 167 to 150. However, a handful of Liberal Party members broke ranks and supported C-314.
The bill garnered support from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Society of Canadian Psychiatry [CASP].
The CASP stated that it felt “strongly that extreme caution needs to be taken with [Medical Assistance in Dying] and a thought-out, failproof, measured system of safeguards needs to be in place so that those most vulnerable will be protected from a medically assisted premature death that could be avoided by adequate treatment and care.”
The organization blasted the government for failing to deliver on promises that such safeguards would be implemented.
Montreal lawyer Natalia Manole pointed out the dilemma of legalizing euthanasia for people with mental illness, given that the desire to die is often a symptom of their condition, potentially compromising their ability to provide genuine consent:
“So how can we legalize medical aid in dying for people with mental illness, knowing that the desire to die is in most cases a symptom of mental illness? In other words, consent would be vitiated in most cases.”
The Society of Canadian Psychiatry recommended pausing the planned 2024 expansion of MAID for mental illness, emphasizing the importance of addressing social differences like poverty and housing insecurity that contribute to mental health struggles.
The defeat of bill C-314 stirred intense debate within the medical and political communities. Dr. K. Sonu Gaind, Chief of Psychiatry at Sunnybrook Hospital, expressed concerns about providing death under false pretenses to individuals struggling with mental illness, who might otherwise recover with proper support and treatment.
Critics of the expansion of MAID, including Jeff Gunnarson, President of the Campaign Life Coalition, and Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, argued against the normalization of euthanasia. Schadenberg stated, “This is not a ‘settled’ issue. We will not be silent in the face of killing.”
A recent Angus Reid poll showed that 51% of Canadians opposed the idea of offering MAID for irremediable mental illness, while 31% supported it.
Canada euthanized more than 27 people per day in 2021, according to National Review Online. Last year, the number climbed to 36 people killed per day.