Most Canadians know that the right to die will soon be the law of the land. Most Canadians enthusiastically approve. But how many know that right may well extend to the mentally ill – people whose sufferings are psychological?
The answer is, very few. Almost no one seems to be aware that we are rushing headlong into a moral quagmire, with profound questions that have not been debated in Parliament and have largely been ignored in the news media.
Everyone in my informal canvass of liberal-minded friends and neighbours was shocked to hear that euthanasia for psychological suffering is even on the table. Yet three months from now, it could be the law of the land. That is what the parliamentary committee on assisted dying proposed in its report last week. The rationale is that psychiatric patients should have the same rights as everybody else.
Think about it. Legalizing marijuana is so fraught with complications that it won’t happen any time soon. But legalizing euthanasia for seriously depressed people? No problem!
Obviously, psychiatric illness can produce grievous suffering. But it is not the same as terminal cancer. Psychiatrists’ practices are filled with people who want to die. Their decision making is frequently impaired by their illness. People who are suicidal often change their minds. And major mental illness, although often incurable, can often be relieved. So can the conditions that make it worse, such as social isolation, poverty and homelessness. You are not likely to find a mental health leader in Canada who has argued that the right to die would serve the greater good of psychiatric patients.