Ruling on Assisted Suicide Opens a Pandora’s Box


We must ensure we do everything we can to help people with psychiatric disorders live better lives rather than offering better ways of dying.

The Quebec Superior Court’s decision to strike down the restriction that limited assisted dying to terminally ill patients, i.e., the clause that a person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable,” has been seen as good news by many. In a case brought by two people who are severely handicapped by degenerative illnesses, the judge ruled that the requirement was a violation of Charter rights.

But I cannot help but wonder what Pandora’s box we have opened for those living with a mental illness.

My opinion on this matter is influenced by the fact that I am a psychologist and university professor specializing in mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention. I have spent most of my adult life trying to help people with psychiatric disorders and those who are at risk for suicide. I cannot help but be affected by the recent  decision, which is expected to lead to new legislation on broadening criteria for medically assisted dying.

Earlier this year, I wrote on this page about the chronic lack of funding for, and accessibility to, mental health services and programs (“Let’s do more than talk about mental illness” Opinion, Jan. 31). Indeed, we know we need to invest more on early mental health promotion and mental illness prevention as well as provide access to psychological services such as psychotherapy. Why? Because they are proven to work.

As for diagnosis, mental health is the only specialty in which diagnoses are mainly based on the patient’s description of symptoms. Based on this, a pharmacological and/or psychological treatment is recommended. Imagine for one moment if we used that same method with cancer.

Read more at the Montreal Gazette…

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