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PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Mental Health Association Says No to Medical Assistance in Dying Solely on the Basis of Mental Illness

September 7, 2017 - - Physician Assisted Suicide

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEPTEMBER 7, 2017

TORONTO - The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) welcomes the release of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) "Position Paper on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD)", which concludes that Canada’s current law should be maintained, restricting MAiD to persons who are already dying.

In June 2016, Parliament adopted a legal regime to authorize MAiD as an exemption to the Criminal Code prohibitions against homicide under certain legal conditions – including that a person must have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition”. The legislation as passed defined such conditions as being: incurable; in an advanced state of irreversible decline; with intolerable physical or psychological suffering; and a reasonable foreseeability of natural death.

Since the passage of this law, some have advocated for a loosening of these requirements so as to permit, for example, persons with mental illness or addiction issues, who are not dying, to access MAiD solely on the basis of their mental health condition. In this context, the CMHA Position Paper is both timely and constructive. Recognizing that mental health conditions can indeed cause suffering, CMHA has affirmed that the current legal criteria for MAiD should continue to exclude mental health conditions, since these are neither “irremediable” nor “incurable”. 

Following a careful review of evidence from Belgium and the Netherlands, CMHA concludes that medical assistance in dying where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition “does not have a place in the current Canadian context”.

Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) said, “CMHA has taken a clear-eyed look at evidence of disturbing social trends in the two international jurisdictions where persons with mental illness may legally request and receive an assisted death. They have demonstrated leadership in championing pathways to recovery for all persons with mental health and addiction experience. CACL applauds this contribution from a leading voice on mental health in Canada, and joins CMHA in calling on governments not to increase access to MAiD but rather to invest in the community-based supports and assistance people with mental illness need ‘to live and thrive’.”

In taking this position, CMHA is aligned with a growing number of organizations and expert advisors who support the ‘Vulnerable Persons Standard’ which calls for robust safeguards in MAiD, including no access only on the basis of a mental health condition. For more information visit www.vps-npv.ca.

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Media contact:
Krista Carr, CACL Executive Vice-President, kcarr@cacl.ca.