Crippen discovers that assisted dying in Canada is to include those with mental illness

Since 2016, Canada’s medical assistance in dying programme – known by its acronym ‘Maid’ – has been available for adults with terminal illness. They are now looking to include mental illness within the criteria.

In 2021, the law was changed to include those with serious and chronic physical conditions, even if that condition was non-life threatening. In that first year, a little over 1,000 people received an assisted death, a number that has grown every year since. In 2021, the most recent figures available, there were 10,064 ‘Maid’ cases.

Later this year, it is expected to change again to include Canadians with mental illness. That planned expansion has ignited controversy over the assisted death programme as a whole and raised concerns that it may be too easy for the vulnerable (sic) to die in Canada. Those fears have been stoked by a recent string of reports suggesting that for some, death has been used as a stopgap for a broken social safety net, effectively letting society off the hook.

Early critics of the programme include three United Nations human rights experts, who wrote to the federal government in 2021 warning that the expanded law could devalue the lives of disabled people by implying that a serious disability was worse than death.

In Europe, Portugal’s parliament has also approved legislation to allow medically assisted suicide in limited circumstances.

For a further update on this article please go to the BBC World News site.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is a high court with solicitors, barristers and members of the public clustered around a tall witness box. In the box is a while male dressed in a blue suit and looking confused. Opposite him is a white male judge, sitting in his own tall box. He is wearing a wig with a black cap perched on the top and is saying: “ I therefore sentence you to death for having a mental illness!”

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