A woman holds up a sign during a rally against assisted suicide in 2016 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. CNS photo/Art Babych

MAiD expansion takes us to a ‘dark place’

  • October 6, 2022

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has launched a campaign to stop a federal government plan that would allow Canadians with mental illness as their sole issue to seek death through Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD).

“According to the Canadian Medical Association, one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or mental illness in any given year. It estimates that by age 40, half of Canadians will have had a mental illness or still have one,” the release states.

The decision as to who will be eligible will be the responsibility of a health care system “already under extreme stress.” It’s a situation the EFC notes is a formula for the risk of wrongful death. Patients with mental illness would be eligible for euthanasia in March 2023.

The EFC is an affiliation of 7,000 congregations representing 1.5 million Canadians. It has released an action kit to help those who want to act. Julia Beazley, EFC Director of Public Policy, explained to The Catholic Register why the EFC launched its campaign now

Catholic Register: Just before euthanasia (MAiD) was made legal in 2016, an Angus Reid poll showed 80 per cent of Canadians supported some form of legalized assisted suicide. Why was that?

EFC: When the first MAID law was passed, Canadians thought of it as limited to people who were dying and in unbearable pain. I don’t think most people anticipated or realized how quickly the law would expand or just how ineffective the safeguards would be in practice. At the time, we cautioned that the wording of the law was imprecise and the requirements so subjective that it would allow MAiD in situations beyond what most people expected.

CR: Did you ever envision the day when the mentally ill would be eligible? 

EFC: Unfortunately, yes. Once you allow MAiD for one group of people, it becomes difficult to deny it to others. But I never imagined it would take place so quickly and with so little public discussion and study — especially since there is no consensus on whether and how access should be expanded to people with mental illness alone.

Such a far-reaching change should have had significant study and debate in Parliament, but it did not.  And now this change in law is poised to take effect without any additional legislative safeguards — safeguards which are too often already inadequate under the current reality, never mind with the immense additional complexity of mental illness alone.

CR: MAiD is dangerous in general, but do you think killing of the mentally ill brings us to an even darker place?

EFC: I think the expansion of MAiD to individuals with disability and chronic illness has already taken us to a dark place. It has laid bare a deeply disturbing ableism that puts the lives of people living with disability or chronic illness at risk. The EFC said at the time — and continues to say — it is unconscionable that in Canada it is easier to access a medically hastened death than it is to access or afford the medical care and supports needed to live well.

CR: The same Angus Reid poll also showed about 70 per cent of Catholics in favour of legalized assisted suicide while 70 per cent of Evangelical Protestants opposed euthanasia. Why do you think your religious community was so strongly against this?

 EFC: We believe Scripture teaches that God gives us life, that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, regardless of ability, medical condition or social status. That each life has value and purpose. We believe that to actively end a person’s life, even by medical procedure, runs counter to that teaching.

This isn’t to say we believe life must be prolonged at all costs when it is nearing its natural end. Refusing unwanted medical treatment, though, is something different from MAiD, which intentionally ends a person’s life.

CR:  Do you think there’s a chance to convince Canadians, and hence the government, that the killing of the mentally ill has gone too far?

EFC: I certainly hope so. I think this is something that should be deeply concerning to all Canadians, and to all parliamentarians. Based on what we know of the statistics, I think it’s safe to say that if we aren’t struggling ourselves, all of us have friends, family members or loved ones who struggle with mental health.

CR: Do you think opposing the killing of the mentally ill could also convince some that euthanasia is generally wrong?

EFC: I think Canadians are already beginning to see problems with MAiD. The media is telling story after story of people with disabilities who are requesting MAiD because they do not have access to treatment or supports to live, things like adequate housing or food.

We were made aware recently of a young man in his early 20s with diabetes who had suffered some vision loss and had applied for — and been approved for — MAiD. Mercifully the doctor withdrew approval in the face of significant outcry from the young man’s family. How many Canadians would ever have imagined that a young man with the possibility of a long life ahead would be approved for MAiD? At minimum, I hope a significant number of Canadians will pause for serious consideration.

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