Canadian religious leaders talk about how country is ready to allow euthanasia for mental illness
Faith leaders across Canada are denouncing a new federal law that will allow mentally ill Canadians to apply for medical assistance in dying (MAID) for mental illness.
“Next March, unless the government is forced to change its mind, people suffering exclusively from mental illness will be eligible for euthanasia,” Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said during a homily last month past, according to a report from BC Catholic.
The comments come just months before a deadline to expand MAID in Canada to people with mental illness, with critics calling on the government to halt the plan until its ramifications can be further studied.
Miller, who has called the law “morally depraved,” argued that Canada has moved too quickly to expand access to MAID in recent years.
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“In six years, Canada has gone from a total ban on euthanasia to one of the most permissive euthanasia regimes in the world,” he said. “And there could be even more access, including allowing ‘mature minors’ to apply.”
Legalizing active euthanasia has proven controversial around the world, with only seven countries allowing the practice from 2022. Belgium and the Netherlands, which have some of the most permissive euthanasia policies in the world, were the first to legalize MAID in 2002. They were joined by Luxembourg in 2009, Colombia in 2014, Canada in 2016 and Spain and New Zealand last year.
Although Canada allowed euthanasia six years ago, the practice has been limited to those over 18 with a terminal illness. But in March last year, the law was amended to allow euthanasia for patients whose natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable”, paving the way for the mentally ill to receive MAID in March 2023.
The impending availability of MAID for mentally ill patients is a troubling development not only for Miller, but for other faith leaders who have expressed serious concerns about the expansion.
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“From our point of view, every life has equal value … but when a life has to end it’s not something that should be left to human beings,” the rabbi told Fox News Digital Berel Bell, who lives and works in Montreal. “Our creator knows how and when to end lives, and he does it every day. And if a person who is alive, for whatever reason he needs to be alive, is something beyond human understanding.”
But Bell also pointed to many of the practical considerations that are getting little attention, arguing that the situations in which MAID is offered are likely to fall on the nation’s poorest demographics.
“If a person needs a psychiatrist, they go on a waiting list. It’s five years before they see a psychiatrist… unless you have money to go privately, you can’t see a psychiatrist and there are so few of them” , Bell said. “So the price is prohibitive.”
Many Canadians rely on the country’s government-funded health care system, which in recent years has been plagued by a shortage of family doctors. Patients are often funneled to clinics and emergency rooms for care, resulting in less personalized treatment and longer wait times.
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Bell, who is also a leading expert on Jewish law, fears that many of these vulnerable people may be steered toward a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
“People who suffer mental and emotional distress, psychological distress, who said they have to stay that way?” Bell said.
Derek Ross, the executive director of Christian Legal Fellowship, shares similar concerns and told Christianity Today when the law was changed last year that MAID is now offered as a “medical response” in addition to a terminal illness.
“The law now presents death as a medical response to suffering in a wide range of cases, not just when someone is already dying, but potentially at any stage of their adult life,” Ross said. “Instead of prioritizing supports to help people live meaningful lives, we have prioritized ways to make death more accessible. This is a heartbreaking message.”
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Bell shared similar concerns, arguing that the continued expansion of eligibility will offer death as a solution to many more people in the coming years.
“People say it’s a bogus argument, the slippery slope, but you see it playing out here,” Bell said. “What used to take years now happens in months or a year or two. Here it got away, it was denied that assisted suicide leads to euthanasia, but in Canada it happened all together … then the definition is broadened of who is eligible. , and then it will go to the disabled, and then we will go to the older children, and that will go to the younger children.”