Written By Jasminder Khehra
As a 4th-year undergraduate student at McMaster University studying health and communications, I have encountered many ideas concerning the current state of health care in Canada. Currently, I am enrolled in a course regarding death and dying processes in later life. One of the topics recently covered in my class was MAID, otherwise known as Medical Assistance in Dying. MAID is an important option to consider in end-of-life care as it can assist in the concept of a good death, which refers to a death that is free from suffering and respects the wishes of the dying individuals. MAID can be a helpful resource in not prolonging illnesses, allowing ill individuals to maintain their autonomy and die with dignity.
There are safeguards put in place within MAID legislation to ensure that only individuals who are seeking medical euthanization will receive it as long as they meet the eligibility criterion; a voluntary request for MAID, are over 18 years of age and are mentally competent, and have a severe/irreversible medical condition are requirements for accessing MAID. However, there are changes being made to the legislation that will be in effect by March 2023. These changes will allow for a broader group of people to access MAID, such as individuals with mental illnesses.
What is concerning about this new change is that the current state of mental health services in Canada is in shambles. There are long wait times to access help from public mental health professionals and it is costly to access private mental health care. There is also still a great deal of stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health in both public and private spaces. With the new revision on mental health in the MAID legislation, will this negatively impact vulnerable individuals who may opt for MAID because they cannot access mental health care services?
Another issue to consider is how poverty is affecting the decisions of Canadians with disabilities who are accessing MAID. According to a Global News article, many Canadians with disabilities are turning to MAID as a way to escape poverty as it is making them sicker and more stressed. The provincial disability support rates in each province are extremely low and are not enough to survive on. In this case, is MAID a choice or a forced option for these individuals who see no end to their suffering? The government of Canada should be doing more for vulnerable populations in this time of need. No one should feel that they have to end their life because of their financial situation.
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