Canadian Mental Health Association is currently developing a policy around changes in medically assisted death, including for people with mental illness
GUELPH – With the March extension of the Medical Assisted Dying (MAiD) criteria to people with mental illness, the Waterloo-Wellington Canadian Mental Health Association is preparing for the change.
MAiD was legal in Canada for people with a terminal illness in 2016, and by 2021 the law was changed to include people with a chronic illness.
There are very few details about the change to MAiD, but what it will have to include is that people with mental illness will have to demonstrate that their condition is serious and irreversible.
“For us, we strongly believe that mental illness is a treatable condition and that recovery is possible,” said Helen Fishburn, CEO of CMHA Waterloo-Wellington.
“But I will say that we also recognize that there is significant pain and suffering associated with mental illness and addiction,” she said.
The criteria according to the government of Canada you must:
- has a serious illness, condition or disability (excluding mental illness until March 17, 2023)
- are in an advanced state of disrepair that cannot be reversed
- experience unbearable physical or psychological suffering as a result of your illness, disease, disability or state of deterioration that cannot be alleviated under circumstances that you deem acceptable
Two health care providers will have to evaluate the patient and the patient will have to remain competent in their decision with an evaluation period of 90 days before the date of death.
There are 3,678 people in Waterloo-Wellington waiting for mental health and addiction treatment and CMHA is preparing their MAiD policy.
Over the past year, CMHA has helped support 23,000 people in Waterloo-Wellington.
“We know that suicide is not about wanting to die. It’s about struggling to live,” Fishburn said.
She said people in the community are currently struggling with mental health and addictions.
“When you think about cancer, without chemo or radiation, cancer spreads. With mental illness, suffering and hopelessness spread without care and treatment.”
Part of the discussion, which has yet to be determined, is what the difference is between suicide and MAiD, she said.
With the stigma surrounding mental health and access to care, it could be a determining factor for people not seeking care, Fishburn said. Shame and stigma are part of unbearable suffering, she said.
Part of the conversation around MAiD should be about universal health and addiction care across Canada, “ensuring everyone has access to the full range of mental health and addiction programs and support they are entitled to under international human rights law,” she said. said.
“I really think…the people who would consider MAiD would be people who have had rounds and rounds of treatment, that…they haven’t been able to get a successful outcome with it. But to the point where, you know, they continue to have excruciating pain throughout their lives,” Fishburn said.
Although she said that this is a very small number of people.
“There’s no reasonable way to look at our population in our community through that lens right now because there are so many people who don’t have access to that current treatment,” Fishburn said.