People with a psychiatric illness should not be discriminated against solely on the basis of their disability, and should have available the same options regarding medical assistance in dying (MAiD) as available to all Canadians, says the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) in a position statement released today.
A person who is deemed capable, has provided informed consent and fulfills all the criteria within Canada’s MAiD legislation should not be removed from consideration for MAiD solely because they have a mental illness. It is critical that psychiatrists who assess eligibility for MAiD are rigorous in conducting capacity assessments and identifying symptoms of mental disorder that are likely to affect decision-making.
“The CPA supports equality and dignity for persons with psychiatric disabilities,” says CPA president, Dr. Georgina Zahirney. “This includes equal access to MAiD, but also includes the equal availability of, and access to, appropriate treatment, supports and services to ensure that MAiD is not requested as a means to escape social exclusion or a dearth of appropriate treatment or community support.”
Last month, the federal government introduced legislation that repeals the requirement that death be reasonably foreseeable, and explicitly excludes access to MAiD by those whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness.
“In situations where mental illness is the sole underlying condition, access to MAiD should not be permitted until appropriate safeguards are in place,” says Dr. Zahirney. “This is a complex issue with limited clinical consensus on what constitutes a grievous and irremediable medical condition in the context of mental illness. However, the CPA remains committed to safeguarding the rights and interests of patients with psychiatric conditions at all times in the legislation and evolving landscape of MAiD.”
The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada’s 4,700 psychiatrists and more than 900 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.
Contact: Rob Cornforth
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Office: 613-234-2815 ext. 237