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Canada considers euthanasia for the incompetent and mentally ill

24 February 2017

There are currently several attempts to widen the euthanasia laws in Canada.

Quebec is looking at extending euthanasia to people who are not mentally competent, while a review of Canada's federal assisted dying legislation is considering mental illness as a ground for 'doctor assisted-death'.

Canada and Quebec currently have two separate laws governing "medical aid in dying" (MAID). Quebec's law, which is narrower than the recently-passed federal version, requires that applicants "be at the end of life."

Incompetent people in Quebec

The alleged murder of a Alzheimer's patient by her husband has triggered a renewed debate on MAID in Quebec's National Assembly. 

Michel Cadotte has been charged with second-degree murder over the death of his wife 60-year-old Jocelyne Lizotte at a long-term care facility in Montreal. Lizotte's family said she requested MAID but was refused.

In response to this death, the euthanasia lobby is pressuring the government to extend euthanasia to people who are incompetent, such as those with Alzheimers or dementia, if they had previously indicated a wish to die by euthanasia. The Parti Quebecais and the Coalition Avenir Quebec are asking for the law to be broadened to include advanced consent.

Alex Schadenburg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition responded to the case, saying "If euthanasia (death by lethal injection) is extended to incompetent people, how would it be possible to determine whether or not someone has changed their mind?"

The Alzheimer's Society of Canada opposes extending euthanasia to incompetent people, instead calling for better palliative care, according to CBA news.

Euthanasia for the mentally ill

Meanwhile, a young man in Ontario has been campaigning for euthanasia to be extended to those with mental illness, saying that there is "no cure" for his suffering.

A review is underway to consider whether the federal law should be expanded to include the mentally ill, mature minors and people who want to make advance requests due to dementia or other 'competence-eroding' conditions. The results of the review are expected in December 2018.

27 year old Adam Maier-Clayton says that mental illness has ruined his life, and has been petitioning the federal government to make doctor-assisted death available people like him, who feel like they’ve exhausted all treatment options. Tragically, his own father supports his campaign to be euthanised.

Jean Echlin, a nurse consultant in palliative care and gerontology, and president of the Euthanasia Prevention coalition said:

"I think people are very worried we're going to make some bad mistakes and take life away when we haven't done the appropriate research in psychiatry and mental illness...If somebody loses their life now, they're put to death, and two weeks from now there's a breakthrough, they've lost their life when they could have had quality."

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