Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying Policy Under Review as Mental Illness Inclusion Looms

Canada is poised to move forward with a significant change in its medical assistance in dying (MAID) policy. The nation will allow individuals with mental illnesses — and in effect, possibly those suffering from substance use disorders — to seek help in ending their lives starting in March, with certain conditions. However, this decision is now under fresh scrutiny from Parliament.

All political parties reached a consensus on Wednesday to recall the special joint committee on MAID to provide additional oversight. This decision followed an unsuccessful attempt by a Conservative Member of Parliament to revoke access to MAID for those with mental disorders as their sole underlying medical condition.

The introduction of this legislation has sparked intense debate. In the House of Commons, some Liberal and many New Democrat MPs joined the Conservatives in sending the bill for further study, while the majority of Liberals and the Bloc Québécois opposed it.

Conservative MP Ed Fast, the bill’s proponent, expressed disappointment in the Liberal Party, accusing some members of trying to gain favor with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He argued that there is no medical consensus on extending MAID to those with mental illnesses and raised concerns that it could normalize “assisted death as an alternative treatment option.”

Initially, access to MAID for individuals with mental illnesses as their sole underlying condition was set to begin in March 2023, but this timeline is now a subject of debate. Proponents of this change assert that it involves careful assessment and appropriate safeguards. Critics, like Fast, question the pace of Canada’s assisted suicide program and its implications for individuals suffering from mental illnesses.

One other point of contention is whether to include people who have substance use disorder or those addicted to drugs in the mental illness expansion. A headline from Vice outright describes the expansion of the MAID policy to specifically target “people addicted to drugs,” but the reference material describing eligibility does not mention it directly.

The article does mention that the matter will be discussed this week at a conference for the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine in Victoria, British Columbia.

What’s clear is that there remains much to be discussed before the expansion comes into effect, if it at all should. To address these concerns, the reconstituted committee has been given a deadline of January 31, 2024, to assess the degree of preparedness for a safe and adequate implementation of MAID in cases of mental illness (MD-SUMC situations).

Information for this story was found via the Toronto Star, Vice, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply