Medically assisted death: Canada will be the most liberal country for MAiD ., experts say

“What a relief. Relief is what I seek.”

John Scully is an 81-year-old retired journalist. After 35 years of struggling with severe depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress disorder, Scully will soon be able to require dying medical assistance or MAiD.

On March 17, 2023, Canada’s MAiD law will change, allowing people whose only underlying medical condition is a mental illness to qualify for assisted dying.

“I’ll probably play some music and I’ll die peacefully,” he told W5’s CTV. “I don’t want to bother it again. I messed up twice trying to kill myself.”

He said that he was a clear-minded and capable person. The proof is in the three books he has written, including “I’m Not Dead: A Journalist’s Perspectives on Terrorism.”

He has started the paperwork and has the blessing of two children and his 57-year-old wife, Toni.

Outspoken MAiD provider Dr. Ellen Wiebe wants to help patients like John Scully.

Dr Wiebe, who has provided MAiD to more than 400 people with physical illness, said: “Mental illness and physical illness can both cause unbearable suffering.

The Supreme Court of Canada and the federal government sided with her and John Scully.

Gaskets for DOORs

MAiD became a legal medical procedure in 2016. It was first offered to people with incurable diseases such as cancer.

In 2021, the law was amended to include non-terminal physical conditions such as chronic pain. Mental illness was initially ruled out to give the government more time to put in place protective measures, which an expert panel of psychiatrists recommended in May 2022.

As with physical illnesses, Canadians with a mental disorder will need to exhibit “grievous and incurable” illness, indicating that their mental condition is incurable. , with intolerable depression and suffering.

Two assessors need to confirm the claim. And the patient must be shown to be competent enough to make the decision, with a minimum evaluation period of 90 days prior to death.

Dr. Wiebe says that more than 1,700 Canadian doctors and nurses now have six years of practice in assessing patients suffering from illness.

When assessing a mentally ill person, she feels the questions are the same.

“Do they understand their disease? Do they understand the prognosis? Do they understand their choices?”

Under recommended safeguards, people with mental illness will also have to show that they have “seriously considered” other treatments, but can refuse those treatments if they found unacceptable.

John Scully would likely qualify.

Scully from her apartment in Toronto said: ‘I’ve tried every so-called cure.

He’s been hospitalized seven times, takes multiple medications, undergoes counseling, and has had 19 electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments that deliver shocks to the brain to reverse his depression. He is currently taking 30 pills a day to try to manage his chronic pain and health problems.

He is not alone.

W5’s CTV spoke to a number of Canadians with longstanding psychosis who welcomed the impending change.

“There will be a rush to open the door,” says Mitchell Tremblay.

The 40-year-old said he was diagnosed with major depression as a teenager and that he also faces anxiety, alcoholism, personality disorder and persistent suicidal ideation. death. He can’t work and lives in poverty with a disability allowance of just under $1,200 a month.

“You know what your life is worth to you. And mine is worthless,” he said.


“I had a patient who spoke to me recently about MAiD who wanted to die believing that no one would ever love him,” Dr John Maher told W5.

But some experts warn Canada is about to introduce what they say would be tantamount to “state-assisted suicide” for the mentally ill, at a time when health services are under strain.

At their regular morning meeting at the Canadian Mental Health Association office in Barrie, Ont., a group of social worker, nurse, and psychiatrist John Maher discussed the people they were trying for. help. A big part of their job is suicide prevention.

Dr Maher told W5: ‘I had a patient who spoke to me recently about MAiD who wanted to die believing that no one would ever love her.

He says colleagues have shared similar stories of patients in their care, asking about how to stop treatment and qualify for assisted dying.

“The wait time for our treatment programs in Ontario is up to five years,” says Dr. Maher.

“There are cycles of illness… Some cycles of ups and downs. It could be years. And then there’s an outbreak of illness and suffering that we have to take care of,” Dr. Maher said.

MAiD for mental illness was too close to suicide to console.

“You are assisting someone in completing their suicide. Dr Maher said: “The doctor is a sterilized gun.

“I completely disagree that there are people with incurable diseases. Which I defy you or any other person in the universe to prove to me that it is this person in front of me.”


Serena Bains says all this talking about MAiD for psychosis only added to her suicidal thoughts.

A 24-year-old man living in Surrey, BC suffers from major depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. She was hospitalized once when she told a doctor she was planning to commit suicide.

Serena Bains told W5 that she has repeatedly been on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist.

But despite the “disability” as she calls it, she has completed her college degree and is set to begin a new internship in Ottawa.

Her worry is that if she goes down and touches a rough patch, she might be suicidal enough to claim MAiD and qualify.

“A lot of the conditions I have… they’re considered serious. They’re all consistent. I’ve had them since I was a teenager,” she says.

Serena has repeatedly been on the waiting list to see a psychiatrist. “This year, like a year and three months,” she told W5.

Studies confirm that there are long wait times for mental health care across Canada. One in 10 Canadians who seek counseling waits more than four months. It is even longer for children and young adults. Serena says the mental health system is broken.

“It’s inconsistent. And honestly, once they switch you to another service, there’s usually a waiting list for that,” she said.

She wondered why governments didn’t provide more mental health services before making MAiD widely available.

“There needs to be more health care, more psychiatrists, more forms of therapy.”

In addition to long waits, people with mental disorders often face problems with access to health care, housing and food. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 70 to 90 percent of people with serious mental illness in Canada are unemployed.

Although MAiD outreach person Dr. Ellen Wiebe says there are weaknesses in the mental health system and long wait times, that doesn’t mean patients don’t necessarily qualify for support. death aid.

“Do I want better mental health treatments in this country? Of course there are. But if delays in care cause incurable pain, it still has to be done. suffer.”

Canadians are also questioning whether it’s the right thing to do for a mentally ill person on support to die while they’re waiting for treatment. A poll by CTV News Nanos found that 61% – almost two-thirds of Canadians – are uncertain or not in favor of MAiD for those awaiting care.


Now, Washington-based bioethicist and psychiatrist Dr. Scott Kim says Canada is about to become the most liberal country in the world in allowing access to people with mental disorders. with assisted death.

Dr. Kim has researched psychotic euthanas and its use in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where it has been practiced for two decades.

Dr Kim said both countries have stricter requirements for proving a disease is incurable, by requiring input from psychiatrists and placing greater emphasis on trying out medical conditions. adjuvant therapy compared with those recommended in Canada.

Belgium also has a two-way system in which patients and doctors look for potential therapies and treatments, while another group evaluates patients for MAiD.

The approval rates for mental illnesses in Belgium and the Netherlands are very low, only 1 to 3 percent, said Dr. Kim.

“Most are rejected,” he said. “It’s great, the main reason is that there are other alternatives.”

In Canada, there is some disagreement about whether patients who want to die on assisted dying need to try treatments or just that they should be informed of what is available.

Dr Ellen Wiebe said healthcare professionals who provide MAiD carefully review the treatments a patient has undergone, although it is not possible to force anyone more than one treatment.

“Personally, the assessor will look at what treatments they have received and say you haven’t tried this or this or this… and then the patient will have to convince me that there is a good reason. worth not trying them out.”


Canada has been under the international microscope for its growing use of medically assisted deaths from physical disorders. Health Canada’s latest report shows a steady increase over the past six years with 3.3% of all deaths in 2021 due to MAiD. That number quickly approached the European average, where about 4% of all deaths were assisted deaths.

“I’ve had colleagues call me from other countries saying, ‘You know what’s going on in Canada?” Dr. John Maher is skeptical of MAiD says.

But Dr Wiebe argues that the new rule acknowledges the plight of people with intolerable mental illness.

Dr Wiebe said: “If you are suffering unbearably, you have the right to say, ‘I’ve had enough,’ and you will go through a process with protective measures.

John Scully agrees. MAiD promises him deliverance from nearly four decades of mental suffering. But its appearance also made him sad.

“It just formalizes the utter failure of psychiatric medicine,” he said.

A joint parliamentary committee has reviewed the matter and is expected to make final recommendations on how MAiD should work for mentally ill Canadians by October 17, 2022.

Watch W5’s ‘The Death Debate’ at 7pm, Saturday, October 15 on CTV


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