With the impending passing of Bill C-14, my blog from 2015 "People With Mental Illness Deserve To Die With Dignity Too" has been regaining a lot of traction. A lot of people have been asking me how I feel about the bill's passage.
I can only respond with one thing: I regret voting Liberal in last year's federal election.
My views about dying with dignity for people living with mental illness are unchanged, but now more than ever I am adamant that people living with mental illness deserve to die with dignity, too.
I'll be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government, but I'll admit they did one thing right: They looked out for people living with mental illness, just like myself. In 2006 shortly after being brought to power they formed the Mental Health Commission of Canada and last summer they renewed the commission's mandate for an additional 10 years.
I only wish Trudeau was just as progressive when it comes to people living with mental illness.
I didn't hear of the Conservatives doing much for people with mental illness and that's quite possibly due to the fact that they weren't doing much. When I voted for Justin Trudeau, I voted for change. I voted for somebody who I thought was progressive and was up to date with the times, somebody who I thought understood Canadians. And to some degree Justin Trudeau is progressive -- planning to legalize marijuana was a big, bold step.
I only wish Trudeau was just as progressive when it comes to people living with mental illness. There's a big difference between Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau: Not doing anything at all and taking away somebody's rights, or not affording people equal rights. Mr. Trudeau, of course, falls into the latter.
In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the federal prohibition on doctors assisting patients in taking their own lives and the government had to draft new legislation. Paragraph 127 of the court's ruling shed some light as to what should be included in the new legislation:
The appropriate remedy is therefore a declaration that s. 241(b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code are void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. "Irremediable," it should be added, does not require the patient to undertake treatments that are not acceptable to the individual.
It was widely believed that the keywords "irremediable," "illness," "disease," "disability" and "intolerable" could all apply to somebody living with mental illness and therefore allow us to take advantage of the legislation. I assumed the Harper Government would encompass people living with mental illness in the new legislation, but they never had an opportunity to introduce it.
With all of Trudeau's modern and progressive ways of dealing with issues, I thought including people with mental illness in Bill C-14 was a certainty. I thought wrong. Instead, the legislation will only apply to people whose death is "reasonably foreseeable" and is "suffering intolerably."
I believe you could argue somebody who is living with mental illness is suffering intolerably depending on how long they've been living with their illness for and if treatments have proven to be unsuccessful. However, a doctor will not tell a patient living with mental illness they only have days or weeks to live.
Shouldn't those people who are incurable, deemed competent and living with an intolerable illness deserve to die with dignity?
But let's not sugarcoat it: Mental illness kills people. Mental illness drives people to kill themselves. Shouldn't those people who are incurable, deemed competent and living with an intolerable illness deserve to die with dignity? Justin Trudeau doesn't think so!
For decades people with mental illness have argued to have their illness recognized just like a physical illness. Just because you can't see the illness doesn't mean it's not there, and Canadians are beginning to understand that.
Just as Canadians begin to accept that mental illness is no different than a physical illness, the Trudeau government decides that mental illness should be treated differently than a physical illness. Though Mr. Trudeau's mother has dealt with her own mental illness, I don't know if HE understands what intolerable mental suffering feels like. Mr. Trudeau should make Bill C-14 available to anybody who is deemed competent.
Not all hope is lost though. On May 18, the Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled a woman living with a psychiatric condition known as conversion disorder can have a doctor-assisted suicide. I hope this ruling serves as a wake-up call to Mr. Trudeau and he'll have a change of heart and decide to foster a more inclusive society for Canadians, especially those living with mental illness!
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