A Canadian woman who has lived with depression and anorexia for 30 years said she was happy when the government first enacted medical assistance in dying (MAiD). When it was announced that MAiD might be expanded to include people with mental illness, she felt like she was finally in control of her life. For her, it is empowering to ask permission from the government to die.
“It was the first time in my life where I felt most of my pain and suffering could end — that I could be in control of that, because I don’t want to go on,” said Agata Gawron. “I don’t want to take away from somebody who can be helped. I’m at the point where I don’t want to be fixed. I feel strength, because it’s me finally showing compassion to myself.”
First diagnosed at age 13, Gawron is now 43 and has been battling depression and anorexia by attempting to get help from different psychiatrists. She says none of them helped her. “I think my condition is a little bit different from the norm,” she said. “People obviously develop eating disorders, and many get over it. But for goodness sake, it’s been over 30 years of this for me.”
She continued, “Most of the psychiatrists that I’ve dealt with do not communicate with each other. So every time I see somebody new, I have to keep repeating myself and my background. I don’t see any quality of life going from doctor to doctor, trying to cure me.”
Plans to expand MAiD to include people with mental illness are now on hold until March 2024. Gawron calls the decision to delay the expansion “beyond hurtful.”
“I don’t want to resort to taking my own life,” she said. “I want to leave on my own terms.” But suicide, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia are all acts of suicide — all the same decision to end one’s own life — just carried out by different means. And yet, suicide is seen as a tragedy, while assisted suicide and euthanasia are celebrated as rights by the current Canadian government. This is made clear by Gawron’s statement that she doesn’t want “to resort” to ending her own life, yet wants “to leave on [her] own terms.”
Disability advocate Cassandra Pollock is rightly concerned with the proposed expansion of MAiD, saying, “There is no time frame” for recovering from mental illness. She argues, “You know what? If they end their suffering and two years later, there’s an answer that they didn’t have. That’s what concerns me.”
When Canada opens up assisted death to those who suffer from mental illness, the nation will be on the verge of allowing anyone to access assisted death at any time for any reason — thus saving the government money because assisted suicide is cheaper than treatments and therapies.
Meanwhile, Canada also offers suicide crisis and prevention resources — meaning the difference between suicide and assisted suicide will only be the act of receiving permission from the government to die.
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