Canadians want safeguards for MAiD in cases of mental illness alone

24 November 2023
Do you think there should be added safeguards when someone asks for a medically assisted death (euthanasia) for reasons of mental illness alone?
A poll by Angus Reid Forum this fall, commissioned by the EFC, asked Canadians if they think extra precautions are needed in such situations.

No additional safeguards

Only 3% of Canadians agreed no additional safeguards are needed when the current law expands MAiD on the basis of mental illness in March 2024.
Younger generations are most likely to want additional safeguards. Only 1% of 18–24-year-olds agree with the current approach of adding no additional safeguards. That rises to 3% among Canadians aged 25–54 years and 4% of 55+ years.

These results indicate a miniscule percentage of Canadians across a range of demographic indicators – including age, income, education and voting intentions – believe that no additional safeguards are required for MAiD for mental illness. The vast majority disagree – they want additional safeguards.
“I don’t think most Canadians realize the change in the law to allow MAiD for mental illness is set to take effect without any additional legislated safeguards,” says Julia Beazley, EFC’s director of public policy. “This is deeply concerning given that the existing safeguards are inadequate under the current reality – never mind with the additional complexity of mental illness alone. Clearly most Canadians don’t support that.”

MAID as a last resort – A safeguard that would have much support

A clear majority of Canadians (61%) believe that if MAiD for mental illness is going to be put in place, it should be a last resort after all reasonable treatment options have been exhausted.
Younger Canadians are most likely to be supportive of this safeguard. Almost 7 in 10 young adults (69%) between 18–34 years believe MAiD for mental illness should be a last resort. Six in 10 adults between 35–54 years support this safeguard, and 57% of those 55 years and older.

“Recent Statistics Canada data tells us that young people are experiencing high rates of mental illness, with a steep increase in the last 10 years. Young adults may be more aware of the impact that MAiD for mental illness will have on their peers,” says Beazley.
Looking at the data by voting intentions, Canadians planning to vote NDP were most likely to support MAiD for mental illness as a last resort with 70% support for the safeguard, then Green Party voters at 67% support, Liberal Party of Canada voters at 64% support, Conservative Party of Canada voters at 59% support and Bloc Quebecois voters at 57% support. Among undecided voters, 60% indicated support for MAiD for mental illness as a last resort. Among those who don’t plan to vote, support fell to 26%.

Women are slightly more supportive of the safeguard of MAiD for mental illness as a last resort, with 64% support, compared to 58% support among males.
Canadians who were aware of the coming change in the law were more supportive of this safeguard (75%) than those who had not been aware (57%).

Even most MAiD supporters want this “last resort” safeguard

Even among Canadians supportive of MAiD for mental illness, the majority supported the safeguard of having it be a last resort. Just over half (53%) of those strongly supportive of MAiD for mental illness supported the safeguard of it being a last resort, and almost 7 in 10 (69%) of Canadians who were somewhat supportive of MAiD for mental illness.
Among those who indicated they were neutral towards MAiD for mental illness, 57% supported having it as a last resort. A strong majority of Canadians who were strongly and somewhat opposed to MAiD for mental illness supported this safeguard, at 66% and 79%, respectively.   

“The majority of Canadians, even those who support MAiD for mental illness, believe it should be a last resort after all reasonable treatments have been tried,” says Beazley. “But this is not actually what the law requires. The law requires only that people are informed of their treatment options – not that they actually receive treatment or that there is timely treatment available to them.”
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