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 https://angusreid.org/assisted-dying-maid-mental-health/