Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti recently suggested that Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD), the country’s legalized euthanasia, is available as a tool for those who would likely have committed suicide anyway. Lametti’s comments came during an interview on Toronto Star’s podcast, “It’s Political.”
During the interview, host Althia Raj expressed reservations about expanding MAiD to include those with mental illness. Lametti told her to “remember that suicide generally is available to people. This is a group within the population who, for physical reasons and possibly mental reasons, can’t make that choice themselves to do it themselves. And ultimately, this provides a more humane way for them to make a decision they otherwise could have made if they were able in some other way.”
As Raj later reported, Lametti received significant backlash for his comments, including from those who are otherwise in favor of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“MAID has nothing to do with helping people who are not capable of suicide,” said psychiatrist Derryck Smith, an emeritus professor at the University of British Columbia. “The two are quite different, so I think he’s confused in his own mind about what this whole issue is about.”
Smith called Lametti’s comments “terrible,” “very distressing,” “so misinformed,” and “unbelievable.”
Brian Mishara, the director of the Centre for Research and Intervention on Suicide, Ethical Issues and End-of-Life Practices at the Université du Québec in Montreal, expressed concern that Lametti appeared to be treating MAiD in the same way as other medical treatments that should be widely available. “It scares the hell out of me,” Mishara said.
Canada is poised to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for mental illness in March 2023. While Lametti has been pressured to delay the expansion due to concerns that medical professionals are not ready to allow mental health patients to decide to legally end their own lives, he has resisted calls to put the expansion on hold.
“Are you willing to put the brakes on that expansion until, clearly, we get some guidelines in place that protect vulnerable Canadians?” MP Rob Moore asked Lametti during testimony at a House of Commons committee Monday.
“It is up to the medical profession to ensure that those standards are met. It’s up to the medical profession to underline that MAiD is about individual choice for people who qualify under the criteria that are there,” Lametti responded.
“We have put a great deal of resources into the system, but we will continue to monitor your concerns, concerns that are being raised by Canadians,” he told MPs. “We’ll work in good faith to make sure that Canadians are ready for mental disorder as a sole criterion for seeking MAiD.”