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Over 1500 of Canada’s publicly funded psychiatrists, pediatricians, medical professors, and general practitioners have joined an organization to fight the government’s expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID). In March 2023, patients suffering from conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or any other mental affliction will gain access to the lethal injection.
Some critics argue medical professionals are being pressured to promote MAID because suicide is cheaper than having to provide care under Canada’s publicly funded medical system. A group of 1,502 Canadian doctors, including medical professors and specialists, calling themselves Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians (PTVC), have publicly expressed their concerns about the situation on their website:
“Medicine… has been transformed into a technical occupation that allows physicians to deliberately end the lives of their suffering patients. Forced participation in arranging and facilitating euthanasia and assisted suicide is now required by certain regulatory colleges…patients can no longer unconditionally trust their medical professional to advocate for their life when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. Suddenly, a lethal injection becomes part of a repertoire of interventions offered to end their pain and suffering.”
Dr. Ramona Coelho, a London, Ontario based family physician and a founding member of PTVC said in an interview in the Ottawa Citizen that:
“Our profession has been coerced into facilitating suicide rather than preventing it, for ever-increasing numbers of citizens. We watch in utter dismay and horror at how the nature of our medical profession has been so quickly destroyed by the creation of misguided laws.”
When Canada passed its first euthanasia law in 2016, the high court ruled that only competent adults suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition had a right to receive a lethal injection. There were safeguards in place such as a 10-day waiting period to allow the patient time to change their mind and there was an onus on the physician to provide alternative treatments to euthanasia to alleviate pain and suffering—such as government-funded palliative care programs.
In March 2021, Bill C-7 passed and came into immediate effect making it legal for adult and adolescent patients who are not terminally ill to request medically assisted suicide (MAID). Under the provisions of Bill C-7, patients can request and receive a lethal injection within the same day without ever having been offered any other treatment options. “MAID (medical assistance in dying) has been deemed an essential service under the Canada Health Act and palliative care has not,” the signatory doctors stated on their website.
Dr. Coelho asserted in the Citizen article that: “In an increasing number of reported cases, MAID is taking the place of medical treatment and government assistance for those with social, economic and psychiatric issues… How can we keep MAID from being used as a tool to absolve governments of their obligation to provide for those living in poverty, with disability, or with mental illness their equal rights as citizens to health, economic security, and life?”
An article in The Spectator asserts that Canadian authorities are encouraging doctors to adopt MAID solely in order to save costs. In an article entitled “Why is Canada Euthanizing its Poor?” the world’s oldest weekly magazine recounts the cost-cutting impacts of the regimen.
“The old MAID regime saved $86.9 million per year—a ‘net cost reduction’, in the sterile words of (a Canadian Parliamentary) report. Bill C-7 would create additional net savings of $62 million per year. Health care, in particular for those suffering from chronic conditions, is expensive; but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case.’ And, of course, those who have to rely wholly on government-provided Medicare pose a far greater burden on the exchequer than those who have savings or private insurance…. There is already talk of allowing ‘mature minors’ access to euthanasia too—just think of the lifetime savings.”
In March 2023, C-7’s full scope will come into effect with the inclusion of mental health conditions. At that point, a Canadian citizen “whose sole underlying condition is depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD or any other mental affliction” can request MAID if two medical professionals agree, reports the National Post.
Psychiatrist Dr. Grainne Neilson, past president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association told the Post he is struggling “to conclude, with any certainty or confidence, that a mental illness has no prospect of ever improving.”
The PTVC doctors on their website argue that, “The shock of a sudden illness, or an accident resulting in disability, can lead patients into feelings of anger, depression, and guilt for requiring care—emotions that, with proper support and attention, can resolve over time. The care and encouragement shown by physicians may be the most powerful force in overcoming despair and providing hope.”
Neilson said psychiatrists will be looking for “a robust, eligibility assessment process” before they would be willing to consider authorizing MAID for their patients. Psychiatrists will want to know that “standard treatments have been offered, attempted and failed, with no other reasonable alternatives.”
Only 28 percent of physicians recently surveyed by the Ontario Medical Association said that MAID should be permitted with sole mental illness as an underlying condition and only 12 percent said they would support it for their own patients.
The situation is so dire that the stoic, penny-pinching former head of the Hollinger Newspaper empire, Conrad Black, stepped into the fray writing a protest column in The National Post:
“When a health-care system is insolvent and inadequate, that fact should be admitted and addressed by comprehensive reforms. Encouraging large numbers of people to consent to die prematurely will neither save the healthcare system nor seriously address the profound philosophical and practical implications of vastly increasing the number of unnatural deaths. I believe that assisted dying is sometimes appropriate and a right of the individual involved. But the ennobling and promotion of a vast increase in the numbers of suicides in the guise of health-care reform is a fraud, a secular and ecclesiastical heresy and, in many cases, arguably a crime.”
Dr. Paul Saba, a physician from Quebec and co-chair of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, a Quebec-based sister organization to PTVC, stated on his blog, “We need to care for people with cognitive impairments—not euthanize them.” Dr. Saba is asking doctors not to perform euthanasia because it “contravenes the legal and ethical practice of modern medicine.” He said that what the government wants to force doctors to do “is illegal and unethical.”
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