Ottawa, Canada, Feb 14, 2020 / 15:00 pm
A new report has warned against expanding access to euthanasia in Canada to those with mental illnesses. The Expert Advisory Group released the report on Medical Assistance in Dying on Thursday, suggesting various safeguards the Canadian government should adopt in order to protect vulnerable populations.
The Feb. 13 document was written in response to a recent assessment released by a think tank that endorsed MAiD for patients who have a mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition. “MAiD” is the legal term in Canada for the procedure commonly referred to as euthanasia or assisted suicide.
“Unlike other medical conditions with a known, predictable course, evidence shows that mental illnesses can never be predicted to be irremediable,” says the report, titled Canada at a Crossroads: Recommendations on Medical Assistance in Dying and Persons with a Mental Disorder.
“MAiD policy and legislation should explicitly acknowledge that determinations of irremediability and irreversible decline cannot be made for mental illnesses at this time, and therefore applications for MAiD for the sole underlying medical condition of a mental disorder cannot fulfill MAiD eligibility requirements,” says the report’s core recommendation.
The EAG report was released in response to recommendations from the Halifax Group, published Jan. 30, was titled “MAiD Legislation at a Crossroads: Persons with Mental Disorders as Their Sole Underlying Medical Condition.” That report was published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Dr. K. Sonu Gaind, a psychiatrist from Toronto who coordinates the EAG, said as “evidence shows it’s impossible to predict irremediability of mental illnesses,” it would dilute the public’s view of MAiD, and result in discriminatory practices.
“Society would think people were being helped to die with MAiD to relieve suffering from an irremediable illness, but in reality we would be ending their lives because of loneliness, poverty, and all sorts of life suffering,” Gaind said in the release.
Unlike an illness such as terminal cancer or degenerative neurological disorders, it is possible to get better from a condition such as loneliness, he added.