The Hamilton Spectator
MAID must be an option for an intolerable life
I’m driving past the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Beside me, my dear friend Carrie is screaming at the top of her lungs. She curls her upper body into a ball and rocks back and forth.
“Take me to the bridge,” she moans repeatedly through sobs.
Just a few months earlier, Carrie was living her best life. Her first love was the unborn child inside her. Her second, her significant other. Her third was her small business — a boutique art gallery.
Then Carrie had a miscarriage and her life crumbled. Her partner left and her business failed. And something started to happen to her brain.
“The lights went out,” is how she describes it.
Some doctors said her mentalhealth crisis is the re-emergence of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition she experienced for the first time five years earlier. Others told her it’s a form of bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder. Her last psychiatrist said she suffers from dissociation and depersonalization.
Whatever it is, it manifests itself with sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, helplessness, loneliness, fear, paranoia, physical pain and suicidal thoughts 24-7. It’s unbearable. And there’s no effective treatment or cure. The first time, it lasted 500 days before she woke up. This second episode dragged on for two-and-a-half years.
Life was so intolerable that Carrie wanted to do anything to end it. She was too afraid to make the leap on her own. And I was too afraid to help her. But our government could have. Despite the fact that it’s a horrific final solution I wouldn’t choose for myself, sick people in this country have the right to a medically assisted death. And my friend — who has a sick brain instead of a sick body — should have that same right.
Scrutinized worldwide, the rightto-die movement champions a safe and peaceful medically assisted dying process over a painful, prolonged or undignified one.
The debate was brought to this country’s public stage in 1992 when, Sue Rodriguez, a Victoria, B.C., woman suffering from ALS, fought to overturn the law that made physician-assisted suicide illegal.
In September 1993, the Supreme Court ruled against legalizing euthanasia. Still, Rodriguez ended her life in 1994 with the help of an anonymous doctor.
It wasn’t until 2015 that Canada’s highest court unanimously ruled physician-assisted suicide as constitutional for “a competent adult person who (1.) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2.) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition.”
In 2016, Parliament passed Bill C-14, also known as the Medical Assistance in Dying Act (MAID). Put simply, anyone who could show that their natural death was “reasonably foreseeable” was eligible to apply.
In 2021, Senate passed Bill C-7, expanding MAID beyond those who are terminally ill. While most people suffering from a serious and incurable medical condition would now have access to a medically assisted death, the mentally ill would still be excluded.
That was all supposed to change on March 17, 2023, when a two-year time limit on the unconstitutional ban would be up. Canadians with a mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition would, for the first time, have access to MAID.
At the end of last year, however, the federal government announced its plan to temporarily delay the spring expansion date. And on Feb. 2, the federal government introduced legislation to delay changes to the MAID law until 2024.
“We need to get this right,” said David Lametti, minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, when proposing the postponement.
He couldn’t be more right about that. There is a significant lack of consensus on the issue.
If MAID had been extended to people with mental disorders just a few years ago, my sick friend Carrie might be dead right now.
But she’s not. She got better. Her medical condition is in remission. She clawed herself out of the mania of her mind and she’s working her way back to living her best life.
But if her psychosis were to recur, and MAID became available to Carrie, she would unequivocally exercise her right to a medically assisted death.
And because I’ve witnessed her suffering firsthand, this time I think I would help.