Canada forced to halt assisted suicide program for mentally ill patients: ‘We need to get it right’

Canada has delayed launching a suicide program for the mentally ill because of a lack of available doctors and psychiatrists.

Originally scheduled to launch in March, the program would have allowed those whose only medical ailment is mental illness to seek out medically assisted suicide.

But according to an announcement made on Monday by Mark Holland, the country’s health minister, and Arif Virani, the country’s justice minister, the program’s launch has now been delayed for at least three years.

The announcement “came after a special parliamentary committee looking into the plan concluded that there are not enough doctors, particularly psychiatrists, in the country to assess patients with mental illnesses who want to end their lives,” according to The New York Times.

“The system needs to be ready, and we need to get it right,” Holland told reporters. “It’s clear from the conversations we’ve had that the system is not ready, and we need more time.”

And so the program is still on track to eventually launch — but not for at least three years, according to the Canadian government.

But the question remains, who could possibly support such a morbid program?

According to the Times, its proponents include men like Jason French, who’s been lobbying the government to allow him to kill himself because of his depression.

“My goal from the start was to get better,” he told the paper. “Unfortunately, I’m resistant to all these treatments and the bottom line is, I can’t keep suffering. I can’t keep living my life like this.”

For every supporter like French, however, there’s an opponent like Dr. John Maher, a psychiatrist in Barrie, Ontario.

“I’m trying to keep my patients alive,” he told the Times. “What does it mean for the role of the physician, as healer, as bringer of hope, to be offering death? And what does it mean in practice?”

He added that complex cases sometimes take years to show improvement — years that impatient, hopeless patients might skip out on in favor of a quick death via Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program.

To be clear, the MAID program is already open to a number of patients, including those with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”

Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health notes that for a condition to be considered “grievous and irremediable,” the condition must be “serious and incurable.”

Moreover, the patient must be “in an advanced state of irreversible decline,” and the condition must be causing them to endure “physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.”

According to the Times, over 13,000 Canadians took advantage of the MAID program last year. That marked a whopping 21 percent increase from the number of medically assisted suicides reported in 2021.

The point is that the program is only growing in popularity each year. Indeed, an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Dying With Dignity Canada last year found that 84 percent of Canadians support medical-assisted suicide being legal.

Meanwhile, a Research Co. poll also conducted last year found that roughly one-third of Canadians are OK with approving the MAID program even for people only suffering from poverty, homelessness, or both.

“If a Canadian’s only affliction was ‘poverty,’ 27 per cent said they would be fine with legalizing that person’s access to MAID,” the National Post reported. “Another 28 per cent pegged ‘homelessness’ as an appropriate bar to qualify for MAID.”

But it gets worse.

“And 20 per cent of respondents were fine with MAID being handed out to anybody for any reason. In other words, one fifth of respondents agreed with the sentiment ‘medical assistance in dying should always be allowed, regardless of who requests it,'” according to the Post.

Vivek Saxena


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