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Canada Authorizes Mental Illness As A Valid Condition For Euthanasia

The Canadian government announced that starting in march 2023 the law regarding medical assistance in dying (MAID) would change. It will no longer disqualify candidates for MAID on the basis of mental illness alone, but will instead allow them to be eligible.

As of January 2022, the criterias to be eligible for MAID are: be at least 18 years old and mentally competent, have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, be eligible for health services funded by the federal government or a province or territory, make a voluntary request for MAID that is not the result of outside pressure or influence and give informed consent to receive MAID, according to Canadian Government official website.

By authorizing people with chronic mental health disorders in the next few months, the country will become one of few to have such a liberal law regarding euthanasia. Other countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain already allow people suffering from mental conditions to access the procedure. The legality of euthanasia is a highly controversial issue. Many health professionals think the irremediable factor of mental illness makes doing an assessment nearly impossible. Some medical health associations and psychiatrists have criticized Canada’s decision. They question how can doctors determine the irreversible nature of a specific mental illness?

Others think that people suffering from mental illness should be pushed to lead a quality life with proper treatment rather than resorting to MAID’s.Minister of Justice, David Lametti assured that they intend to proceed with caution to avoid making mistakes. They will examine several perspectives on legalizing euthanasia.

In an interview for BBC news, Dr Stefanie Green - president of the Canadian Association of Maid Assessors and Providers - said that waiting for death in cases of terminal illness causes intense suffering for patients. She stated, "Almost every single time I deem a patient eligible [for Maid], that patient stops worrying about how they're going to die and starts wondering how they're going to live.”

On the other hand, some reports suggest that Canadian citizens have opted for MAID due to problems of social structures, such as housing inaccessibility. People who criticize the extension of the law say that this step may contribute to people choosing death due to poverty or loneliness problems."Leaving people to make this choice [to die] because the state is failing to fulfill their fundamental human rights is unacceptable," said Marie-Claud Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in a statement in May of 2022.

Assisted death to adults has been legal in Canada since June 2016. In March 2021, the government made changes in the law that included details about eligibility, procedural safeguards and framework for the federal government’s data collection. The revision in legislation guaranteed the appropriate protections for people who want to request the process. In the first year (2016), about 1,018 people chose to take MAID. In 2017, the number grew to 2,838 deaths.

The increase continued in the following years in all provinces of the country. The number of cases of MAID in 2021 represents a growth rate of 32.4% over 2020. Considering all data, the total number of medically assisted deaths reported in Canada since 2016 is 31,664, according to the third annual report Medical Assistance in Dying.


Picture: Alexander Grey por Pixabay


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