Canada will extend access to euthanasia to the mentally ill in March. To do so, it has had to reform the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law passed in 2016, which was only available to terminally ill adults who applied for medical assistance in dying.
Mental illness was excluded from the previous revision of the medical assisted in dying (MAID) law in 2021. In that year a first change was made so that euthanasia could be requested by people with serious and chronic physical conditions, even if that condition was non-life threatening.
The extension of the law to people with mental illness has sparked controversy and raised concerns that it is too easy for vulnerable people to die in Canada, while the government says the law “protects the most vulnerable Canadians” by respecting patient autonomy.
Much of the controversy centers on whether a mental illness is incurable, and how it might be assessed. For a person to be eligible for MAID in Canada, the illness must be incurable.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has warned that it is “not possible” to determine whether an individual case of mental illness is curable or incurable and strongly opposes any further expansion.
Since the approval of the law in 2016, the Ministry of Health has recognized more than 30,000 deaths. Only in the year 2021, 10,064 euthanasia or assisted suicide practices were carried out. This represents 3.3% of all deaths in that country.
Euthanasia in the world
Euthanasia and assisted suicide euphemistically called “physician assisted dying” or “medical assisted dying” is also legal in the United States in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. It is also allowed in Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, Colombia, New Zealand and in the State of Victoria in Australia.