Tell your Parliamentarians to respect our end-of-life rights:
Continuing to exclude individuals with mental disorders from end-of-life choice is stigmatizing, discriminatory, and unconstitutional.
Unwanted suffering is wrong
Under Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. This includes on the basis of mental or physical disability.
Bill C-7, which became law on March 17, 2021, amended the Criminal Code to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) for those whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. This change in the law was the result of a court challenge by two individuals living with disabilities, Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, who argued that the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable was unconstitutional. The Superior Court of Québec agreed and ruled that the reasonably foreseeable natural death criterion violated section 7 of the Charter, protecting against deprivations of life, liberty, and security of the person, and section 15, guaranteeing the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
This was a positive step forward for end-of-life rights in Canada, but the law continued to prohibit MAID for those whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder, now until March 17, 2024.
We cannot discriminate against people with mental disorders on the basis of their diagnosis. Rather, as concluded by the Court in Truchon, “The vulnerability of a person requesting medical assistance in dying must be assessed exclusively on a case-by-case basis, according to the characteristics of the person and not based on a reference group of so-called ‘vulnerable persons.’”
DWDC strongly encourages increasing investments into additional supports for people with mental disorders. At the same time, the necessary due diligence and preparatory safeguard work have been completed, and every precaution is being taken to ensure the fair, thoughtful and balanced treatment of those living with mental disorders.
In a recent Ipsos Omnibus question, a strong majority (82%) of people across Canada support the notion that with the appropriate safeguards in place, an adult with the capacity to provide informed consent should be able to seek an assessment for medical assistance in dying for a severe, treatment-resistant mental disorder for which they experience intolerable suffering.
Depriving someone of their legal and constitutional rights is a serious matter and should be done rarely and for as short a period as possible. Now that the sunset clause has been extended an extra year to March 2024, we urge the government to use this time to better educate and inform the public about medical assistance in dying and mental disorders, and to not extend the sunset clause again.
End-of-life rights must be respected
When the sunset clause on MAID for mental disorders comes to an end, individuals whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental disorder will be eligible to apply for medical assistance in dying. This does not, however, mean that anyone with a mental disorder who applies for MAID will be found eligible. Clinicians will be looking for evidence of the longstanding nature of the illness, a history of interventions and treatment attempts, and the voluntary, repeated nature of the request by the person in question (being 18 years of age or older).
In the Netherlands, where assisted dying for mental disorders has been available for 20 years, only 1% of assisted deaths have been approved for those suffering from a mental disorder.
Add your name and tell your Member of Parliament and the members of the AMAD committee that you support medical assistance in dying for those suffering from a grievous and irremediable mental disorder. If you are living with a mental disorder or have close experience with a loved one who suffers/suffered from a mental disorder, we encourage you to include that in your letter.
Empower. Inform. Protect your rights.