MAID and mental illness: A mother’s story
Personal Stories | August 27, 2021 | Dying With Dignity Canada
Through a series of blog posts, we are examining each issue of the Parliamentary Review of MAID to inform and motivate Canadians to advocate for expanding the law. A mother of a daughter who suffers from mental illness shares her story and insight into her daughter’s lived experience.
My reflection as a mother and advocate for one suffering with a mental illness requesting medical assistance in dying.
I have the honour of being the mother of an amazingly bright and loving daughter who, through no fault of her own, was diagnosed with a mental illness in 2005, at the age of 26, when she attempted to take her life and I found her. She received appropriate care and despite her many challenges and attempts to move forward, in January 2021, she submitted a letter for consideration in having medical assistance in dying (MAID).
I cannot express the sadness that I felt as her mother as she saw no other way of ending her intolerable and persistent suffering related to the illness and its impact on her life.
To quote her words,” I have had enough, I have taken the medications and therapy. I have educated myself in attempts at finding meaningful employment, to build a life and have failed. I have no friends or family of my own. I have nothing and am living in a community residence being supported by the government.”
I have found it interesting that despite all the treatments, her mood, behaviour, fears, and self-deprecation have not changed since her teenage years. The stigma she has felt over the years was more self-shame, guilt, and frustration with her inability to follow through with the education, training and support she received to move forward with confidence as an independent person.
She has had good care from her family physician, psychiatrist and health care team who have helped her to try and move forward with her life. She lived with me until 2018 until I could no longer cope and did not feel that I was helping her in her recovery.
She now wishes to end her life and has promised not to take her own life. I wonder if her request for MAID could be the best option? I cannot see my life without her however, it is not my life that I am considering; I see her emotional and mental suffering and it is real. She is a brilliant woman and understands completely the consequences of her decision. I am, on the other hand, the eternal optimist, often to a fault.
After a significant psychosis last December requiring hospitalization, her medications were reviewed and changed completely. Six months have passed, and I have seen some very positive behaviours despite her ongoing fear of being physically harmed, of having to live alone and lack of confidence in moving forward with her life.
As a mother and advocate, not one who is wearing her shoes and living her life, I know that her suffering and fears are real. I hope the work of the expert panel on MAID and mental illness will prioritize the dignity and autonomy of the person suffering including their definition of personal recovery, as well as clinical recovery determined by the medical team.
Research supports that mental illness is not measurable to anyone but the person suffering and that care providers can only treat symptoms. I question the value of ongoing treatment and quality of life as determined by the individual when the outcomes do not change and the physical harm resulting from the treatments cause further physical, emotional and spiritual pain to an already hurting person.
I wonder, is there another unexplored option to consider?
Learn more about the Parliamentary Review and MAID and mental illness here.