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OPINION: MAiD and mental illness

The federal government of Canada currently has legislation pending that will legalize Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those whose sole issue is mental health-related.

The federal government of Canada currently has legislation pending that will legalize Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those whose sole issue is mental health-related.

I understand why this is happening; someone filed a charter challenge of the original legislation accusing it of discriminatory practice, which the Supreme Court found to be legitimate. The original MAiD legislation was found to be discriminatory as it required those who wanted assistance in dying to have a death reasonably foreseen, and mental illness was not included.

Don’t confuse understanding the reasoning for being okay with it; leaning on personal experience, this is one piece of legislation that should remain discriminatory.

As someone who has dealt with mental health concerns and has had periods of high suicidality for the better part of the last two decades, this legislation concerns me because had it been offered to me when I was at my worst, I might have taken it.

Having made it through multiple crises and working my way to a high level of functioning, the thought that I might have latched onto this as a way out of the pain scares the hell out of me.

I didn’t need help killing myself, I needed help building the right tools to be able to adequately cope and I needed a doctor to take the time to help me find the right medications to be able to function.

Opening MAiD to those whose sole illness is mental health related, with no expectation of death, is a slippery slope for the federal government to go down.

I’ve reached out to various government departments to find out how this is going to be rolled out in Alberta, and the only response I got back was typical bureaucratese that didn’t come close to answering any of the questions I actually asked.

I wanted to know how those in crisis are going to be protected from making a decision they can’t take back. I wanted to know what waiting times are going to look like. I wanted to know what the waiting time is for a therapist through the public system right now.

To my disappointment, not a single one of those questions were answered.

MAiD legislation will be available to those whose sole condition is a mental illness beginning in March of 2024, unless the feds extend the deadline again, without much addressed publicly as far as precautions or safeguards.

To me, this sends the message that those with mental illness are easier to dispose of than to treat, and in a twenty-first-century civilized society, I find this disturbing.

I understand why the Supreme Court reached the decision it did, its verdict is within the letter of the law and within the Canadian Charter; however, just because something is within the bounds of the law doesn’t mean it is right.

Before opening this legislation up for those with mental illness, I would posit that the entire flawed legislation should be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up, with safeguards in place to protect Canada’s most vulnerable.

Canadians expect better; our federal government needs to do better.

- Kevin Sabo is the editor for the Bashaw Star, Castor Advance, and Stettler Independent newspapers for Black Press Media.

Kevin Sabo

About the Author: Kevin Sabo

I’m Kevin Sabo. I’ve been a resident of the Castor area for the last 12 years and counting, first coming out here in my previous career as an EMT.
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