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‘Canada abandoning suicide prevention under assisted suicide laws’

Assisted Suicide
18 November 2021
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Canada is abandoning historic conventions around suicide under its liberal assisted suicide framework, a US commentator has warned.

In an article for The Washington Post, columnist Charles Lane, notes that institutions in the Great White North, are increasingly rowing back from suicide prevention as Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) law is expanded to encompass mental health conditions.

The columnist notes that last year, Canada “passed a law establishing an expert panel to study the extension of euthanasia — the intentional administration of a lethal dose of medication, by a physician — to people who seek it solely to relieve what they say is intolerable suffering due to mental illnesses”.

This new provision, allowing people with mental health conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, will come into force in 2023.

Lane adds: “Less than a decade ago the Canadian Parliament passed a law establishing a ‘federal framework for suicide prevention’ on the grounds that suicide caused by mental illness was a major public health issue”.

“Now it has reframed suicide as at least potentially a manifestation of individual autonomy, which doctors might not only respect but facilitate.”

Campaigners against assisted suicide in the UK note that Canada and other jurisdictions that have legalised the practice quickly expand laws to allow other groups to access ‘assisted death’.

This inevitably extends to the disability community and people with mental health issues. Representatives from these groups warn that inequality is compounded by such moves as access to more-expensive treatment and support is disincentivised.

In a debate on assisted suicide proposals before the House of Lords in October, Baroness Campbell warned of negative consequences for the disability community:

"I am not immune to dark thoughts when my health deteriorates and social care fails, or when I am told that I am at end of life and I am in pain—but my experience has taught me that universal patient-centred care is and has to be the first priority.

“One disabled woman sums it up very well. She wrote to me last week, ‘I am against this Bill. I have got a terminal illness, but when I am left to spend a painful night in my wheelchair because nobody turned up to put me to bed, I am going to think that assisted suicide might not be so bad after all. Why can’t people support us to live first, so that we wouldn’t get suicidal?’ Is this Bill the best we can offer her?"

Assisted suicide bills are currently before the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament. To find out more, visit our cause page.

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Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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