Psychiatry Association Expresses Concerns Ahead of Government’s Expansion of MAiD for Mentally Ill

Psychiatry Association Expresses Concerns Ahead of Government’s Expansion of MAiD for Mentally Ill
A 60-year-old woman suffering from cancer rests in a hospital palliative care unit in a file photo. (Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images)
Peter Wilson

Canada’s top psychiatrists are calling on the federal government to delay its planned eligibility expansion of medical assistance in dying, or MAiD, to include patients whose sole medical condition is mental illness, which is set to come into effect in March 2023.

The Canadian Association of Chairs of Psychiatry (CPA), which represents the leading psychiatrists at Canada’s 17 medical schools, released a statement on Dec. 1 saying more time is needed to ensure certain standards are put in place before the government expands MAiD eligibility criteria.

“Further time is required to increase awareness of this change and establish guidelines and standards to which clinicians, patients and the public can turn to for more education and information,” said the head of the CPA, Dr. Valerie Taylor, in the statement.

The CPA’s position statement on Canadian MAiD laws was last updated in October 2021 after initially being released in February 2020. It stated that the association does not have a stance on the “legality or morality of MAiD.”

MAiD has been legal in Canada since 2016, although the eligibility criteria surrounding it have changed several times. Currently, patients must meet the following criteria to be eligible: have a serious physical illness, “be in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed,” and be experiencing “unbearable suffering.”

The requirement that patients be terminally ill to receive MAiD was dropped in 2020.
As of March 17, 2023, patients whose sole medical condition is mental illness will also be eligible for MAiD.
A number of doctors have signed a petition from the Society of Canadian Psychiatry calling for a delay of the legislative expansion until 2024 for the purpose of further “consultation and review of the safety and risks of MAiD for sole mental illness.”


“Independent scientific groups which have reviewed ability to determine irremediability of mental illness in the context of MAiD assessments have concluded that it is not possible to determine irremediability of mental illness in individual cases.”

A Health Canada spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that Canada’s current MAiD eligibility criteria “set a high bar” for accessing medically assisted suicide.

“Only individuals with severe and long-standing mental illnesses that have been resistant to multiple treatments and interventions would ever be deemed eligible for MAID,” said Health Canada media relations advisor Tammy Jarbeau in an email on Aug. 23.

MPs and Senators on the joint parliamentary MAiD committee have heard concerns from witnesses in recent months that assisted suicide is becoming too easy to access.
“I’m concerned that the government has given health-care professionals essentially a licence to kill without having significant checks in place to ensure people are assessed properly and thoroughly,” said David Henderson, former president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, while testifying before the joint MAiD committee on Oct. 18.

Henderson also told the committee that some Canadians in the past were worried about “a slippery slope” with MAiD legislation, but “were quickly dismissed.”

“Here we are a very short time later with MAiD virtually being available to any person for any reason, and I ask, is that what the Canadian public actually wants?”

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.