HomeHealth Care NewsCanada to Expands Doctor-Assisted Suicide to Mentally Ill

Canada to Expands Doctor-Assisted Suicide to Mentally Ill

Starting in March, Canada is expanding doctor-assisted death to include those with a mental illness.

Previously, doctor-assisted suicide was only available to the terminally ill. Canada will now be one of five countries allowing the practice for the mentally ill, including Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

More than 30,000 Canadians have died from assisted suicide since it was legalized in 2016,  reports Reuters. One-third of those deaths occurred in 2021 alone, comprising 3.3 percent of all deaths, making it a top ten leading ‘manner’ of death.

As with the terminally ill, two medical professionals will determine whether the person has an irreversible condition and is mentally fit to make the decision.

‘Merely Window Dressing’

In practice, there is no oversight of assisted suicide cases, says Julie Grimstad, a patient advocate and board member of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO).

“So-called ‘safeguards’ or ‘restrictions’ written into euthanasia and assisted-suicide proposals are merely window-dressing to gain approval, soon gone and forgotten after legalization,” said  Grimstad. “The pro-death lobby is dishonest to the core.”

There has been a big push in Canada to promote doctor-assisted suicide. The Canadian government published an activity book to teach children how the process works and why adults choose to end their life, the National Post reported on December 21. The book states that illness or disability “hurts their body or their mind so much that it feels too hard to keep living.”

In addition, the Quebec College of Physicians is trying to expand assisted death for severely disabled newborns.

‘Suicide by Telemedicine’

HALO is a U.S. nonprofit founded in 2018 to defend “the lives and safety of persons facing the grave consequences of healthcare rationing and unethical practices, especially those at risk of euthanasia and assisted suicide,” according to its website.

The organization has documented the denial of life-sustaining treatment to patients who want it.

HALO filed an amicus brief to save Tinslee Lewis, a baby in Texas, who against her mother’s wishes was being denied treatment due to a serious heart condition, says Grimstad.

“To make a long story short, Tinslee is now four years old, at home with her family, and doing quite well in spite of the doctors’ prediction of her life expectancy,” said Grimstad.

Assisted suicide is legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia, and Oregon took the practice a step further in 2022 by dropping its residency requirement, says Grimstad.

“Since assisted suicide by telemedicine is also permitted, this probably means that people don’t even have to see a doctor face to face or be examined by the prescribing physician but can meet via video chat and have the drugs mailed to them,” said Grimstad.

AnneMarie Schieber (amschieber@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.

AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.

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