February 22, 2024

Canadian psychiatrists defend euthanasia for mental illness

Debate in Canada over the upcoming inclusion of mental illness as a reason for medical aid in dying is heating up. A powerful editorial in the Globe and Mail recently contended that Parliament should rescind its approval. “There are too many uncertainties, most crucially the inability to determine who is suffering from a truly irremediable mental disease and who will recover given enough time, treatment – and hope,” it said.

Sixteen psychiatrists from across Canada responded in the Impact Ethics blog. They argued that MAID is currently available for people whose deaths are non-foreseeable and who are suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition”. Death from mental illness is not foreseeable, either, but these patients are denied a right that other Canadians have. They write:

Discrimination against people with mental disorders is based on the paternalistic assumption that they cannot make autonomous health care decisions and the erroneous belief that MAID eligibility can never be established for persons with mental disorders. Severe, unremitting, treatment-refractory mental disorders are fortunately rare, but those who suffer from them deserve the same options, and the same compassion, as all other Canadians who suffer from chronic medical conditions.