A recent survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute indicates that a majority of Canadians are opposed to the Canadian government’s plan to expand the eligibility criteria for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) —which encompasses both assisted suicide and euthanasia — to include mental illness as a qualifying condition.
The report, which surveyed 1,816 Canadian adults at the end of January, reveals that only three out of ten Canadians support the idea of allowing patients to seek MAiD solely based on mental illness.
The Canadian government had initially planned to roll out the expansion of MAiD in March, making Canada one of the few countries worldwide to permit assisted suicide for mental illness. However, the government has since delayed the expansion, citing the need for caution and consensus.
Canadians are concerned about the potential implications of this expansion on medical treatment and palliative care for the dying, with almost one-third of respondents expressing concerns that it could shift the focus away from improving palliative care, which offers real care to patients.
These concerns are not unfounded. Doctors in Canada are reporting that the government is pressuring them to use MAiD as a cost-saving measure. In 2020, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report indicating that the MAiD program has resulted in a “net cost reduction” of $86.9 million per year.
Moreover, since the legalization of assisted suicide in Canada in 2016, MAiD deaths have risen sharply, with disturbing stories emerging of people with disabilities or living in poverty being coerced into ending their lives through MAiD.
Tyler Dunlop, a 37-year-old Canadian man, recently made headlines when he announced that he would be seeking assisted suicide through MAiD due to homelessness. These stories underscore the urgency of the situation, as the Canadian government remains committed to moving forward with allowing MAiD for the mentally ill.
Pierre Poilievre, the head of the Conservative Party of Canada, recently made a poignant statement emphasizing that the mentally ill deserve hope, not death. He argued that the government should work with people to create lives worth living, rather than encouraging them to give up on life altogether.
“My belief is that we should try to give people lives that they believe are worth living, rather than telling them to give up on life altogether,” he said. “Life is a precious thing, and government should work with people to give them a life worth living, rather than telling them to give up.”
Poilievre’s sentiments are shared by the majority of Canadians, as the survey shows. The expansion of MAiD for mental illness raises serious ethical questions and could have far-reaching consequences for the future of palliative care and end-of-life treatment in Canada.
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