Canada’s recent decision to expand MAiD, coming into effect in March 2024, will mean that those suffering solely from mental health issues will be given the green light to request death- a terrifying prospect for so many.
In 2016, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was made legal in Canada. This meant that any adult suffering from a ‘grievous and irremediable medical condition’ was able to apply to have a doctor kill them.
The scope of this legislation, initially limited to only those with six months to live, has gradually been expanded. In March 2024, it will further be extended to include those solely suffering from mental illness. This is after Ed Fast, a British Columbia MP, had his proposal to veto this extension voted down.
In light of the recent report on MAiD, which found that 13,241 people had been killed by MAiD in 2022, a 31.2% increase from 2021, this is no small matter. Within the 6 years since MAiD has been legalised, it has become responsible for 4.1% of all deaths in Canada. Thus, any expansion of MAiD is not the problem of a few, but is a hugely significant decision that could lead to many thousands of people killing themselves.
This is not some abstract moral question. Canada’s legislative change has concrete consequences. From March 2024, Lisa Pauli can choose to be killed, and the same goes for many others battling anorexia. Instead of increasing funding to provide better mental health services, or, indeed, palliative care services for those whose conditions are in fact life-limiting, Canada has decided that killing those struggling is the solution. This is no sort of attempt at care. Whilst palliative care and mental health services remain under-supported, one cannot claim that MAiD is a legitimate option. It is a means by which those who should be cared for and looked after are killed. It hides behind a smoke-screen of freedom, but in reality the poor quality of other services mean that the ‘choice’ for those suffering is severely limited.
For those with mental disorders, conditions that clearly affect one’s decision-making capacities, this expansion to include them is disastrous. It is already abhorrent that little attempt is being made to genuinely help this group who are so at risk, and this legislative change will hardly motivate further funding to be set aside for their recovery. A suicidal mentally-ill person needs to be cared for until such a time as they make a recovery. Instead, Canada would encourage them to pursue this end, and, what’s more, would help them in the act.
To administer MAiD to a person with a mental illness is to give up any hope of treatment. It is labelled the ‘compassionate’ choice but, in reality, it relegates life with certain health conditions to a life not worth living. As some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, those with mental illness face the terrifying prospect of a government who deems their life as less valuable than others. This thoughtless and continuous expansion of the MAiD programme – far from a caring piece of legislation – thus directly devalues the lives of some of Canada’s most vulnerable citizens.
Where will Canada draw the line?