Further delays for MAID for mental illness betrays patients

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA) is deeply disappointed and concerned by the federal government’s decision to further extend the exclusion of eligibility for medical assistance in dying (MAID) for persons suffering solely from mental illness until 2027. This decision violates the rights and dignity of Canadians who are experiencing intolerable suffering due to a mental disorder as their sole underlying medical condition.

Every person has the right to autonomy and self-determination over their own body and life. We have supported the expansion of MAID to include individuals whose death is not reasonably foreseeable, as well as those whose sole underlying medical condition is a mental illness, as long as they meet all the other eligibility criteria and safeguards. We reject the idea that mental illnesses are distinct from other illnesses. We further reject the stigmatizing assertion that a mental illness necessarily diminishes one’s capacity to make a free and informed decision about MAID.

The BCHA recognizes the complexity and sensitivity of this issue and the need for evidence-based guidelines and resources to ensure the safe and consistent assessment and provision of MAID for mental illness. However, we do not accept that another three years of delay is necessary or justified to achieve this goal. These delays are causing harm to those who've fought for decades to win these rights. Rather, delays serve only to further relitigate issues settled by the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter nearly a decade ago.

The BCHA stands in solidarity with the individuals and organizations who are advocating for the rights and interests of persons suffering solely from mental illness who seek MAID. We call on the federal government to act swiftly and compassionately to end this unjust and harmful exclusion. We simultaneously call on the Government of BC to do the work to ensure our healthcare system is ready to support patients with mental illness who are ready to seek MAID.

And importantly, we reiterate our call on the Province to tear up its Master Agreement with faith-based healthcare facilities. That agreement allows hospitals and hospices to deny British Columbians their rights to legal healthcare options.

Finally, it's beyond time for the government to start providing the Canada Disability Benefit and to provide those mental health supports necessary for everyone to be able to live a life of dignity.

Disclaimer: The initial draft of this statement was prepared with the assistance of Microsoft Copilot. It has been edited and reviewed before publication.

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