A Canadian think tank official says Justice Minister David Lametti should “back off” from plans to expand assisted suicide to mentally ill Canadians.
Cardus health program director Rebecca Vachon said the results of a recent poll Cardus helped deliver should be a wake up call to the minister.
“The government should work to ensure Canadians can access all mental health and social services they need before even considering the possibility of expansion,” she said.
Vachon’s comments come two weeks after Lametti announced the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) program for the mentally ill would be delayed another year due to safety concerns. Lametti said the program needed more time to safeguard against Canadians accessing assisted death without proper cause.
“The safety of Canadians just comes first,” Lametti said. “That’s why we’re taking the additional time necessary to get this right.”
The Liberal government previously sought to expand MAID beginning March of this year. The program would then include people who are mentally suffering, but not dying from their illness.
This expansion would add cases such as severe depression to the list that would allow someone to apply for MAID.
Critics argued this and other recent changes make “medical assistance in dying” an inaccurate title, and that the program should be retitled as “medically administered death” or “medically assisted suicide”.
Vachon is one of those critics. “The minister needs to back off from expanding medically assisted suicide to people suffering from mental illness,” she wrote.
Canada’s MAiD policy faced international scrutiny late last year after parliamentary committees heard that several Canadian Forces veterans had been offered MAID in unreasonable situations.
A prominent Forces veteran, retired Cpl. Christine Gauthier, testified she was offered MAID after five years of requesting a wheelchair ramp be installed at her house.
“I was completely shocked and in despair,” she told CTV News at the time. “It is remotely just what they’re doing: exhausting us to the point of no return.”
Veteran Affairs denied any employee ever offered MAID to Gauthier, and said the department found no evidence, but Gauthier later showed CBC News a copy of a letter she sent to the department detailing the offer, which she said took place over the phone.
“Do I believe them when they say they have no proof in their files? No,” she told CBC News.
She suffered permanent knee and spine injury in 1989 while training on an obstacle course.
This year, Canadians seem to be worried about issues similar to Gauthier’s, but also open to the concept of MAID.
In the Cardus and Angus Reid survey released on Monday, 55% of respondents said they were worried Canada’s MAID program would replace adequate social services.
Four-in-ten said the rising use of MAID since 2016 was a positive change, improving one’s end-of-life control, and two-in-ten said the rise was neither good nor bad.