As a Canada Watch
reader and friend of the EFC, you’ve been a crucial part of our work to interact respectfully, compassionately and effectively with what can feel like the relentless expansion of medical assistance in dying.
MAiD is certainly not the only major issue these days, but it is one of the most pressing. That’s because in only a few short weeks, unless there’s a change in the law, people with mental illness as their only medical condition will become eligible for euthanasia.
“Underlying our concerns about MAiD is our belief that human life is precious, a gift from God of inestimable value,” says EFC director of public policy Julia Beazley. “To allow someone’s life to be ended by MAiD is to say that person’s life isn’t worth living. This message is especially detrimental to those who are struggling with hopelessness or despair.”
A parliamentary committee has been studying whether Canada is ready for MAiD for mental illness. The EFC, which has consistently opposed euthanasia and assisted suicide, submitted an outline of reasons why MAiD for mental illness should not be introduced. Reviewing those reasons can help us all remember why we’re engaged with this work.
1. There are no clear guidelines on how to distinguish between a desire for suicide and a request for MAiD. This will be a subjective assessment, carried out unevenly in a fractured and overburdened health care system.
2. The MAiD law limits eligibility to people with a serious and irremediable medical condition. However, experts say it’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict the trajectory of an individual person’s mental illness.
3. MAiD for mental illness must not become an option – and particularly not the most accessible option – when mental health care may not be accessible or affordable, when treatment and support are not available to far too many Canadians. Canada’s health care systems are under strain and have been described as broken, given that:
- One in ten Canadians looking for counselling will wait more than four months for their first appointment (often longer for specialized care).
- Only half of Canadians experiencing a major depressive episode receive “potentially adequate care.”
- One-third of Canadians who reported needing mental health care say those needs were not fully met.
4. People are already applying for MAiD because of a lack of support, feeling like they don’t have other options and because of socioeconomic concerns. Canadians with mental illness face additional stigma and discrimination that may add more push toward MAiD.
5. The existing safeguards are very subjective. What is a grievous or serious illness? What is an advanced state of irreversible decline? Who decides? Parliamentarians must look at what the law allows
rather than relying on what they expect health professionals to do. Assessing case-by-case means there are no universal protections.
The EFC’s submission says, “It is unconscionable that in Canada it may become easier for a person with mental illness to access MAiD than the care and supports they need to live.”
The EFC asked the MPs and senators on the committee to recommend at least a delay to MAiD for mental illness, if not a complete halt.
Many of you reached out to your MPs to ask them to stop MAiD for mental illness. Thank you. It has been important and effective to do this work together. It is still a crucial time for each of us to engage. A brief phone call to a local MP’s office, even leaving a message with MP’s staff, to ask for MAiD for mental illness to be stopped will be noted and have an impact.
Until the change takes effect on March 17, it’s in the government’s hands to introduce a delay or to stop the change altogether. Our team has prepared resources that are short and digestible – and help us all be more effective on this issue. Find them at TheEFC.ca/HaltMAiD
How you can help
- We can’t do this work without you. Please continue to give to and pray for the EFC’s work on issues like MAiD that impact vulnerable Canadians.
- Please contact your member of Parliament again or for the first time. It’s not too late. The timing is right to reach out now.
As ever, we remain deeply grateful for the ways you support the EFC as we speak into the pressing issues of the day.
Also in this issue: EFC research helps core ministries of churches, Welcome new EFC team members,
EFC studios available for affiliates in Toronto and Ottawa.