• On March 17, 2023, Canada’s MAiD law will change, allowing people whose sole underlying medical condition is mental illness to be eligible for an assisted death.
• MAiD law authorises a doctor or nurse practitioner to administer medication that intentionally brings about a person's death, at that person's request.
Canada has been under the international microscope for its increasing use of medically assisted death for physical disorders.
It has again shocked the world by introducing a bill that will allow mentally ill people get medically assisted death also known as euthanasia.
According to an in-depth interview conducted by CTV W5, on March 17, 2023, Canada’s MAiD law will change, allowing people whose sole underlying medical condition is mental illness to be eligible for an assisted death.
MAiD law authorises a doctor or nurse practitioner to administer medication that intentionally brings about a person's death, at that person's request.
This procedure is only available to eligible individuals.
W5 interviewed an 81-year-old retired journalist who says he has already began paper work for his assisted death.
John Scully says MAiD, will be a relief after struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and post-traumatic stress disorder for 35 years.
"I would probably play some music and I would die peacefully," he told CTV's W5.
"I don't want to botch it again. I screwed up twice trying to kill myself."
Scully says he is clear-minded and competent.
The evidence is in three books he's written, including "Am I Dead Yet: A Journalist's Perspective on Terrorism."
His decision is supported by both the Canada Supreme Court, the federal government and a Canada MAiD provider Dr Ellen Wiebe.
"Mental illness and physical illness can cause unbearable suffering," the medic said.
Wiebe has provided MAiD to more than 400 people with physical illnesses.
ASSISTED DEATH BY MAiD
Euthanasia, which is also known as medically assisted dying still remains illegal in Kenya and is punishable by law.
In Canada, MAiD became a legal medical procedure in 2016, after being offered to people with terminal illnesses such as cancer.
In 2021, they amended the law to include those with non-terminal illnesses like chronic pain.
Then in May 2022, the government held discussions on whether to include mental illnesses, a decision which they seem to have finalised.
HOW IT IS DONE
After the patient makes the decision to be assisted, he or she will be assessed for a minimum of 90 days before death is provided. Two assessors need to confirm the request.
The patients will also have to show that they have “seriously considered” other treatments.
Scully told the news agency that he has been hospitalised seven times, been on multiple medications and undergone counselling.
He has also had 19 treatments with electroconvulsive therapy that sends shocks to the brain to lift depression.
“I have tried every single so-called cure," he spoke from his apartment in Toronto.
Scully is now on 30 pills a day to try to manage his chronic pain and health problems.
However, a team of experts, including psychiatrist John Maher, say the decision has to be reviewed.
"I had a patient who talked to me recently about MAiD who wants to die because he believes no one will ever love him," Dr Maher told W5.
He said that colleagues have shared similar stories of patients in their care, enquiring about how to stop therapy and qualify one for assisted death.
“The wait times for our treatment programmes in Ontario are up to five years,” Maher said.
Various studies also confirm that there are long waits for mental healthcare across Canada.
"There are cycles of illness. Some of it's up and down. It might be years. And then there is a burst of illness and suffering that we then take care of,” Maher said.
He says that MAiD for mental illness, is too close to suicide for his comfort.
“You're assisting someone in the completion of their suicide. The doctor is the sanitised gun," he said.
One of his key concerns is how anyone can determine if someone with a mental illness is incurable, as is required by the legislation.
"I'm not at all disagreeing that there are people who have an irremediable illness. What I defy you or any other person in the universe to prove to me is that it's this person in front of you.”
One in 10 Canadians looking for counseling services wait more than four months.
It is even longer for children and youth.