Mental Illness "Safeguards" Aren't Safe At All

Canada’s assisted suicide laws are soon to expand availability to patients with mental illnesses.

Members of Parliament debated this issue as these changes are anticipated in March of 2023.

The article states, “Mental health advocates warn it is harder to predict the outcomes and treatments of mental illnesses, and a wish to die is often a symptom, but an expert panel earlier this year said existing eligibility criteria and safeguards in medically assisted dying legislation would be adequate.”

Yet already, Canada is removing the “safeguards” that existed in the first place. Originally, mental illness was not a qualifying reason to apply for assisted suicide, allegedly protecting those with this symptom of “a wish to die.” Now, though this symptom can distort the mind and tell a person lies about themselves, people with mental illnesses are told that the “safeguards” will be “adequate” to protect them when their symptoms are at their worst.

These laws would mean that someone suffering from severe depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, anorexia, or other mental illnesses could be euthanized by the very doctors who were, up to that point, providing suicide prevention care and services. Offering suicide prevention to some and suicide help to others, namely people with disabilities, is disparate impact, and with euthanasia and assisted suicide laws, it means death to the devalued group.

“Ellen Cohen, a coordinator advocate for the National Mental Health Inclusion Network, told committee members Canada needs laws to help patients, not hurt them. ‘I don’t believe there were any safeguards recommended,’ she said. She resigned from the federal government’s expert panel on MAID and mental illness in December 2021. She said there was no space to identify how vulnerable people could be protected.”

“The MPs argued there are ‘far too many unanswered questions’ on the subject, and nothing precludes the committee from revisiting whether assisted dying should be offered to this category of people at all. ‘Legislation of this nature needs to be guided by science, and not ideology,’ the Conservatives wrote in May, warning that an outcome that could ‘facilitate the deaths of Canadians who could have gotten better’ would be completely unacceptable.”

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