Euthanasia: Canada Takes the Prize for Permissiveness

March 30, 2020

A report by Canadian experts warns the government against extending euthanasia to people with mental disorders. In March 2020, if the law governing assisted suicide is not changed, the most vulnerable patients are likely to have their days shortened.

“Evidence shows it’s impossible to predict irremediability of mental illnesses,” said Sonu Gaind, a Toronto psychiatrist and coordinator of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG), an institute of expert assessment. On February 13, 2020, he published his conclusions relating to Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD), the law supposed to regulate assisted suicide in Canada.

For the practitioner, “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…I don’t think Canadians would support that sort of discrimination.”

The EAG report was released in response to the recommendations of another expert group - The Halifax Group. Published on January 30, 2020, the latter lean in the direction of a widely accessible euthanasia.

Unlike the Halifax group, the EAG sought to include in its study those with “lived experience with mental illness.” For example, Mark Henick, a member of the EAG who has lived with mental illness and depression for two decades, said in a press release that he would have “absolutely” chosen to end his life through MAiD had the option been available at the time—a choice he would not make now, since he has been cured.

As a reminder, in September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that the MAiD should not be reserved only for people suffering from a terminal illness or “reasonably foreseeable death.”

The Canadian federal government then announced that it would not appeal the decision: in March 2020, the law on euthanasia extended to people with mental disorders will therefore gain force of law.

The EAG warns that upcoming changes will make Canada “the most permissive jurisdiction in the world for MAiD, with the fewest safeguards against unwanted deaths, unless additional safeguards are introduced.”