The Liberal government is contemplating pausing plans to broaden the eligibility of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to individuals solely with a mental illness. (Michael Swan photo)

Liberals consider pausing MAiD expansion to mentally ill

A glimmer of Christmas hope emerged for objectors to Canada’s euthanasia regime. 

Federal Justice Minister Arif Virani said Dec. 13 that the Liberals are contemplating pausing plans to broaden the eligibility of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to individuals solely with a mental illness beginning March 17. Cabinet will weigh the feedback offered by a joint parliamentary committee, medical professionals and other stakeholders.

“We’ll evaluate all of that comprehensively to make a decision whether we move ahead on March 17 or whether we pause,” said Virani.

Conservative MP Ed Fast, long a critic of the government’s assisted suicide policy, told media outlets he liked what he heard from Virani.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a glimmer of hope come from the Liberal government that they’re prepared to reconsider their decision to move ahead.”

Fast’s Bill C-314, which would have permanently quashed MAiD’s expansion, was defeated 167-150 at the second reading in October. 

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), wrote that the EPC “is pleased that Virani may hit the ‘pause button’ on euthanasia for mental illness.” EPC is launching a campaign in January to convince MPs “that people with mental health concerns should not be abandoned to death by MAiD.”

On Dec. 14, Schadenberg moderated a webinar discussion with Tyler Dunlop, a 38-year-old man from Orillia, Ont., who began the MAiD process this past January because of homelessness and hopelessness. His story showed that there is hope for those suffering from mental illness.

“I had been experiencing homelessness on the street for several months,” said Dunlop. “I was exhausted. I was malnourished. The cold had broken down my spirit… (I was) exhausted, and at my wit’s end with my spirit totally shattered, I went to my hospital in Orillia to apply for medically assisted death.”

His decision shocked health-care professionals as he was healthy and non-disabled. He told OrilliaMatters at the time he was so dead set on his decision that he refused to submit to psychiatric testing.

Dunlop was not alone in feeling compelled to end his life to escape from poverty. In December 2022, the CEO of the Mississauga Food Bank, Meghan Nicholls, told The Catholic Register that some clients informed food bank staff that “they were in such a desperate state mental health-wise and their outlook on improvement was so poor they were considering ending their own life.”

The one-year legislative delay in enacting MAiD for the solely mentally ill prevented Dunlop’s request from being granted. But his testimonials went viral. During the year, people rallied around Dunlop and offered him support. Among these champions was Tim den Bok, a writer based in Collingwood, Ont. Over the past few months, den Bok supported Dunlop as the latter wrote the autobiographical novel Therefore Choose Life: My Journey from Hopelessness to Hope. 

The Catholic Register


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