·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Mental Health

MAID Expansion & Addressing Mental Illness Myths, Misconceptions

— March 1, 2024

Concerns over Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) for those with debilitating mental health conditions remain.

The discourse surrounding the extension of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) to include individuals dealing solely with mental illness remains contentious, with divergent perspectives highlighting the complexities of the issue. In Canada, the eligibility criteria for MAID were poised to broaden in March to include individuals contending with mental health disorders. However, the implementation has been deferred until 2027, as Health Minister Mark Holland proposed legislative measures to address concerns raised by a parliamentary committee regarding the readiness of Canada’s healthcare system to accommodate this expansion.

Advocates argue that the reluctance to include those with mental illness stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nuanced manifestations and impact of such conditions. Graeme Bayliss is an active a proponent of MAID and an individual navigating depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

He highlights the importance of recognizing the diverse spectrum of mental health challenges and the potential relief that MAID offers to individuals suffering from debilitating conditions.

Bayliss emphasizes the psychological solace that the mere availability of MAID provides, offering a sense of agency and respite in the arduous process of managing mental illness. He contends that MAID serves as a safer alternative to the traumatic aftermath of attempted suicides, or the distress experienced by bereaved family members upon encountering unexpected fatalities.

As the discourse on MAID expansion unfolds, Bayliss’s perspective sheds light on the profound impact that legislative decisions can have on individuals navigating the difficulties of the mental health world.

MAID Expansion & Addressing Mental Illness Myths, Misconceptions
Photo by RDNE Stock project from Pexels

Advocates stress the need for a more inclusive approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of mental illness and ensures compassionate end-of-life options for those facing profound psychological challenges.

Dr. Derryck Smith, a clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, aligns with Graeme Bayliss’ perspectives, looking into the discrepancy in treating mental and physical illnesses within the MAID eligibility framework.

Advocating for the inclusive incorporation of individuals with mental illness under Track 2 criteria, Dr. Smith showcases the urgency to dismantle persistent stigmas surrounding psychiatric conditions.

Despite the growing advocacy for the expansion of MAID, psychiatrists find themselves in a state of division, reflecting broader societal ambivalence towards end-of-life choices, especially concerning mental illness.

The recent survey by the Ontario Psychiatric Association reveals a notable discord within the psychiatric community, with a significant proportion expressing reservations about extending MAID provisions solely to individuals contending with mental health disorders.

Dr. Madeline Li, a psychiatrist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, highlights the key role of transparent discussions in MAID requests, particularly for individuals dealing with mental illness.

Li advocates for comprehensive assessments that scrutinize the underlying factors influencing patients’ decisions, addressing systemic barriers to mental healthcare access and socioeconomic disparities.

The ongoing debate surrounding the expansion of MAID eligibility highlights the imperative of promoting informed dialogue and developing policy frameworks that prioritize patient autonomy while safeguarding against potential vulnerabilities and inequities.

As the discourse evolves, stakeholders must remain vigilant in addressing systemic barriers and misconceptions that may impede equitable access to end-of-life care for individuals dealing with mental illness.

The nuanced perspectives of psychiatrists, advocates, and healthcare professionals contribute to the ongoing dialogue, seeking a more compassionate and informed approach to MAID in the context of mental health.


Misunderstanding of mental illness clouds MAID expansion, patient and psychiatrist say

Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) law

Medical Assistance in Dying

OPA National Survey of Psychiatrists’ and Psychiatry Residents’ Perspectives on MAID for Mental Disorders

Number of assisted deaths jumped more than 30 per cent in 2022, report says

Join the conversation!