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PRESS RELEASE: Mental Health-Related Suicides and Growing Numbers with Dementia Not a Reason to Expand Access to Assisted Suicide/Euthanasia

April 18, 2017 - - Equality Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 18, 2017

TORONTO - Members of the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) are saddened to learn about the suicide of Adam Maier-Clayton, a young man who struggled with mental health issues and was an advocate for access to assisted suicide or what is known in Canada as medical assistance in dying (MAiD), solely because of psychological stress and mental health issues. His story has been profiled in the Globe and Mail and used by ‘Dying with Dignity’ as an example to justify extending eligibility for what is known in Canada as medical assistance in dying (MAiD). 

In response to Mr. Maier-Clayton’s death, Shanaz Gokool, CEO of Dying with Dignity was quoted in the Globe and Mail on April 17: “We have to find a way to understand what are the parameters [through which] people with severe mental illness may be included in medical assistance in dying.” Dying with Dignity is also promoting MAiD through advance directives for people diagnosed with dementia and who express a wish to be put to death at some point in the future when they may no longer be considered legally capable to request MAiD.

CACL takes a very different view on access for people who do not have a terminal illness or whose death is not ‘reasonably foreseeable’, as required for accessing MAiD under the Criminal Code exemption to the prohibition on assisted suicide. Krista Carr, Executive Vice-President of CACL said, “Medical assistance in dying is for people who are already dying, who have an irremediable condition with advanced and irreversible decline in capability, who experience intolerable suffering and who independently decide to access MAiD. We have seen the alternative on the horizon in the Netherlands and Belgium where people with mental health issues, with intellectual disabilities, or with autism spectrum disorder are now being approved for medically-assisted suicide or euthanasia. We must confront the roots of suffering and lack of support in our society for people who struggle every day to find dignity and live a good life. Telling them the state is now ready to terminate their lives is not the answer.”

Michael Bach, Managing Director of IRIS – Institutes for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society, which has been studying the means for assessing vulnerability of persons requesting MAiD – said: “The American Psychiatric Association has studied the issue extensively and adopted a clear position that MAiD should not be made available to non-terminally ill patients, and that other alternatives to address suffering must be provided. Facilitating suicide cannot be made a duty of the state and medical profession. A growing body of research findings shows that the trend towards medicalization of suffering, to be treated through termination of life, skews entirely the role of the medical profession and sets a very dangerous course for society.” This is especially the case given the growing proportion of the population with mental health difficulties and the fast-increasing prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the Canadian population. 

For more information on the position adopted by the American Psychiatric Association see here. The World Congress of Psychiatry is expected to adopt a similar position at its World Congress in October. 

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Media contacts:
Krista Carr, Canadian Association for Community Living, 506-474-3528
Michael Bach, Institutes for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society, 416-209-7942