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Help mental patients rather than kill them – a plea from a Canadian senator

Publié le : 17 March 2016

Saskatchewan Senator (Canada), Denise Batters, has held a forum in which she denounced the recent mixed report by the Parliamentary Commission on medically assisted dying and claims that the mentally ill should be helped rather than killed.

 

Her husband, MP Dave Batters, committed suicide a few years ago following a bout of severe depression. Denise Batters is therefore familiar with the subject since it affects her personally.

 

According to her, although the polls indicate that most Canadians are in favour of assisted suicide, there is also evidence to suggest that this option should only be available to the terminally ill and that extremely clear limits should be set. Otherwise, the report will open “the door to numerous shocking scenarios”.

 

In fact, the Commission did not stipulate that the disease should be in the terminal phase or life-threatening. The conditions set for access to medically assisted dying include psychological suffering without any need to attend a psychiatric consultation. Furthermore, the Commission has even recommended extending medically assisted dying to “mature minors”. This broadly exceeds the parameters drawn by the Canadian Supreme Court in its Carter v Canada decision. As far as the senator is concerned, nothing justifies this position which simply requires an “online” decision by an unknown lenient person.

 

Stating that she would be the last person to suggest that people with mental health problems did not merit equal treatment before the law, she stressed the fact that, “in a medically assisted dying context, mental illness implies a certain vulnerability, which should be carefully considered”in terms of its complexity but is not “terminal” per se. According to the senator, “we cannot grant the mentally ill access to assisted suicide if we are incapable of giving them full access to treatment and support options”.

 

“How can we expect people treating the mentally ill to prevent suicide whilst signing the death warrant of a mentally sick patient?” she enquires.

Stressing the need to keep hope alive for people suffering from mental disorders and to support and protect them, especially in a situation where assisted suicide could become a reality (see Canada: medically assisted dying or assisted suicide), Denise Batters has invited Canadians to make their voices heard on this subject and to request that access to medically assisted dying should not be extended unreasonably.

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