Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a historic ruling and one that will likely become apart of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's legacy. I'm talking about the court's ruling (Carter v. Canada) that strikes down a ban on a doctor assisting a patient in taking their own life.
No matter how the court ruled, it was going to be precedent setting. I was eager to see how the court would decide this issue I have read the court's ruling in its entirety and I wanted to see who this ruling would apply to if/when the government introduces new legislation. Paragraph 127 of the ruling sheds some light on this:
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.
The million dollar questions are does this ruling apply to people living with mental illness and should this ruling apply to people living with mental illness? I believe the answer to be 'yes' to both of these questions.
I was first diagnosed with mental illness 12 years ago and in that time I've taken measures to end my own life twice. As I've talked about in the past I worry constantly I may one day die from suicide.
I constantly advocate for better treatment options for people living with mental illness. However, its time we face the music. We will never eradicate suicide, if somebody wants to take their own life they will find a way and there is little we can do to stop those who are truly determined to do so.
For some people living with mental illness, they may only experience symptoms for a short period in their life. But for people like me, I will experience mental illness for the rest of my life. There have been some really dark moments and there will be more dark moments to come in the future.
I have advocated extensively for mental illness to be treated and looked at the same as physical illnesses. That's why if we're going to accept physician assisted-suicide as an appropriate remedy for people suffering from an irremediable physical illness then we must accept this to be an appropriate remedy for people living with mental illness.
When I think of when physician assisted-suicide may be appropriate for somebody living with mental illness, I think of the people who appreciate the consequences of their choices both good and bad, people who have extensively received treatment for mental illness which is reported to be ineffective by the patient, and I think of people who have suffered from psychological trauma that has destroyed their lives that don't see envision a future for themselves.
I believe physician assisted-suicide should be an absolute last resort and a million safeguards should be put into place. On the other hand I believe physician assisted-suicide for people with mental illness could actually save lives. If people want to die by suicide with the assistance of a doctor they would undoubtedly have to undergo an extensive examinations and likely have to meet with a doctor more than once over a determined amount of time. This may actually prompt people to get treatment one more time or possibly delay the end of their life by giving them a moment of reflection.
People with mental illness deserve to die with dignity too.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: