‘Discriminatory’: Psychiatrists slam exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying bill

‘Discriminatory’: Psychiatrists slam exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying bill

The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life.

The federal government maintains that denying Canadians with debilitating mental illnesses the right to medically assisted death is simply a matter of continuing a prohibition that already exists in the law.

In fact, a small number of Canadians suffering solely from severe, irremediable mental disorders have received assisted deaths during the four years the procedure has been legally available.

Read more: Assisted dying bill passes House of Commons vote in principle

The government is now proposing to expressly exclude such people as it amends the law to expand eligibility for everyone else.

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Some psychiatrists say that stigmatizes people with mental illnesses, minimizes their suffering and reinforces the myth that they could be cured if they just tried harder.

What’s more, they believe the exclusion violates Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees equal treatment under the law regardless of physical or mental disability.

Under Bill C-7, a mental illness will “not be considered an illness, disease or disability” for the purpose of the assisted-dying law.

“A provision that applies only to persons with mental illness, without appropriate justification, is discriminatory in nature because it is arbitrary. A provision that applies to all persons with mental illness, without appropriate justification, is unconstitutional because it is overbroad,” the Canadian Psychiatric Association says in a brief to the House of Commons justice committee, which is scrutinizing the bill.…

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