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Canadian experts: Medical aid in dying should be extended also to people with mental illness

Sunday, February 9, 2020

In Canada, the government is considering changes to make assisted death easier for people who aren't terminally ill. As this development happens, an expert panel of clinicians and ethicists recommends to extend the law also to people whose only medical condition is a mental disorder.


“There is no reason to believe that suffering from mental disorders in some cases is not as intolerable and deserving of relief as suffering from physical disorders,” reads the new report from the Institute For Research on Public Policy, by a panel of eight professors of medicine, law, sociology, psychiatry and nursing from across Canada. 
They recommend the new laws, which the federal government is considering in response to a Quebec court ruling, not exclude people who have only mental illness. The experts also suggest a new requirement be imposed that a decision to accept medical aid in dying (MAiD) be “well-considered,” which is to say “well thought out and not impulsive,” but not necessarily a “good” decision in the judgment of the assessor, and with no requirement for a settled intention to die immediately.

The report calls for clear regulatory standards for nurses and doctors, more professional training, and a federal consultation service to run for at least five years, with all cases of people without lethal conditions accepting medical aid in dying being sent to a “post hoc peer review process.”

The advice comes as a federal public consultation period ended this week, seeking guidance in advance of a full review of the MAiD law this summer. The government is considering changes to make assisted death easier for people who aren’t terminally ill, but who still want help in dying legally.

As the report notes, this issue “has landed squarely and unavoidably on the desks of Parliament,” because of a court decision last year in Quebec, in the case of Jean Truchon, 51, who has been paralyzed all his life with spastic cerebral palsy, and Nicole Gladu, 73, who has been paralyzed to varying degrees since childhood by poliomyelitis and consequent degeneration. Neither were about to die when they requested aid in dying, so both were refused.

A judge found their charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person were violated by the requirement of “reasonably foreseeable” natural death (in the Criminal Code), and being at the “end of life” (in Quebec law). That means that the requirements will no longer apply after the judge’s six-month grace period expires in March.

Source: the Vancouver Sun

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