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A very personal opinion on the MAID expansion.

Updated: May 3, 2023

MAID. Medical Assistance In Dying. A topic that has been in recent news again as the program looks to expand to people with mental illness and mental illness alone.

I knew a man who had decided to end his life with medical help. It was a gut wrenching experience as his friend and seemingly unnatural. There was something so surreal about knowing someone's expiry date. I respected his decision as he was in a terrible amount of pain and was bed ridden; counting on family for all of his care needs. Something inside me knew though that he didn't really want to die. His situation was beyond his control and he couldn't see another way to alleviate his and his family's suffering. There was nothing left to do for him. He was already dying; beyond help of his physical ailments.

Mental health is a whole other beast.

Though we can see, and measure physical illness, we can only imagine and empathize with someone with mental illness. It's harder to understand. It's invisible and intangible. For each of those that suffer with it, it can be a lonely place as it affects each differently depending on their life experiences. There's no one size fits all disorder or treatment. It's subjective in an objective medical system.

In recent news, I watched an interview of a man who was debilitated by his mental illness and hadn't been able to work for many years, relying on provincial disability financial supports. While he was not in crisis, he was exploring the idea of medically assisted dying because he was so worried to become homeless given his financial and living situation. This is a very real and valid fear for someone in this circumstance, and more and more people are seeing MAID as a means to end their worries. Stress plays a huge role in mental illness. The stress becomes a catalyst for worsening symptoms and the worsening symptoms are a catalyst for suicidal thoughts and ideations.

So how do we prevent people from the desperation in the first place? Support. Not a means of ending it all. While depression and mental illness can affect people from all walks of life, it disproportionately affects the poor. According to, " Mental health is shaped by the social, economic and physical environments, in which people live." and "the determinates of mental health and wellbeing are largely about the society we live in, rather than medical." According to the Canadian Association for Mental Health "Safe and affordable housing is pivotal to a person's recovery."

If these things are known to be truths, why then should it be easier to access assisted suicide than it is to access appropriate supports in life?

What would happen if we turned the tables? Should there be a medical answer to this social problem, or the other way around?

What happens when people are appropriately supported? Studies and social experiments in many other countries show increased wellness causing fewer trips to the doctor, and less physical and economic stress on the medical system. More productivity, ingenuity and creativity are born and people become entrepreneurial, freed from their heaviest stressors, housing and food security. People want to be a part of society and to contribute naturally and that's exactly what happens when supports in appropriate measure are given. Provincial disability supports are currently no where near the cost of living in much of Canada.

The man in the news story I spoke about above had a happy ending to his story. His landlord who was going to sell, upon hearing how low the man had become, decided not to sell and a number of thousands of dollars was raised for him. He was no longer at the end of his rope and felt great relief, no longer suicidal.

Appropriate social supports should be prescribed and results examined first.

Look at the result for this one individual. He went from suicidal thoughts to having his faith in humanity restored and wanting to live and contribute in his own way.

Not everyone with mental illness faces these types of challenges though and I do believe in freedom of choice, but for those that do, these challenges should be examined, helped and weighed before a decision is made to jump to assisted suicide. I know the torment of mental illness, and have also pondered this exit strategy. My own story mirrors quite a lot of the man I spoke about above though, I have benefited from the kindness of friends with housing and help with food security. Threat to either however, tips the balance and I start to slip into panic and spiral into illness again. That's how fragile mental health can be. It's so intrinsically tied with stress, that social supports have to be more in tune with the cost of living and the needs of those they are meant to serve.

My own journey has shown me that when one feels suicidal, one isn't in a healthy mindset. While MAID decisions are said to be made only when a person is deemed of sound mind, a sound mind can still be a very depressed mind. Is it truly a decision being made of sound mind then? Only a depressed mind would choose to die. Who chooses to die unless they are in deep, deep suffering? Shouldn't we do everything to alleviate outside stressors first to see how the person responds? Wouldn't this be the most humane thing we could do? Or have we moved too far away from our humanity? After all, compassion is how we are meant to evolve.

Some would say this MAID expansion is compassionate

and I agree to a degree, but if we can't balance the scales with being compassionate in life as in death, then we aren't in the proper position to act on this expansion, ethically speaking. If people are trying to exit this planet because their social position is too precarious without trying to improve the society we live in first, we are headed down a dark path.

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