The Southwest Booster

Mental Health and MAID: Canadians question looming changes to Canada’s assisted-death law

Canadians divided whether surge in MAID since 2016 represents success or failure in health care


As the Trudeau government again delays changes to Canada’s medical assistance in death (MAID) laws that would have expanded coverage to those suffering solely from mental illness, new data from the nonprofit Angus Reid Institute, conducted in partnershi­p with Cardus, finds Canadians generally supportive of the federal government’s first two iterations of assisted dying legislatio­n, but trepidatio­us when thinking about the likely next step.

Indeed, three-in-five Canadians (61 per cent) say they support the current MAID law in Canada, which allows a patient to request the treatment under certain circumstan­ces but without facing foreseeabl­e death. This foreseeabl­e death condition was a key component of the initial criteria in 2016 but was challenged in court and deemed unconstitu­tional.

The same support is not evident for the proposed addition of mental health as the sole condition for requesting MAID.

Just three-in-ten (31 per cent) say they support the concept of offering MAID for irremediab­le mental illness. Half (51 per cent) oppose this idea. Justice Minister David Lametti said in early February that the additional one-year delay (the government previously requested a two-year pause on expansion) will “provide time to help provincial and territoria­l partners and the medical and nursing communitie­s to prepare to deliver MAID in these circumstan­ces”.

Since 2016 when the original MAID law was passed, the number of Canadians using the procedure per year has increased ten-fold, to more than 10,000 in 2021. Asked if they consider this a success, that Canadians are now controllin­g their end-of-life decisions, or a failure, that MAID may be overused or abused, Canadians are more inclined to see value in its availabili­ty. More than two-in-five (43 per cent) say this, while one-quarter (25 per cent) disagree and say this trend is a bad thing.

More Key Findings:

- Two-thirds (65 per cent) say that potential MAID patients should have to exhaust all treatment options to access the procedure. One-quarter (24 per cent) disagree.

- Asked about different scenarios for MAID eligibilit­y, Canadians hold varying views. Two-thirds say that someone dealing with debilitati­ng chronic pain should be able to request MAID. Support is much lower in scenarios where a person is dealing with mental health challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder (23 per cent) or severe depression (22 per cent).

- Faith is a factor in views of assisted dying. Those who are Religiousl­y Committed (defined by ARI’S Spectrum of Spirituali­ty) oppose access to MAID for all criteria. Others along the index, including the Privately Faithful, are more supportive of MAID in instances that do not involve mental health

- More than half of Canadians (55 per cent) say they worry about MAID taking the place of improvemen­ts in social service. One-in-three are not concerned (36 per cent).

The full poll can be viewed online at

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