Senator who lost husband says assisted death shouldn't be option for mentally ill
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, February 25, 2016 7:44PM EST
A Conservative senator whose depressed husband died of suicide says she is very disappointed with a new parliamentary committee report that recommends allowing non-terminally-ill people -- including those with mental health issues -- to have doctors help end their lives.
Saskatchewan Sen. Denise Batters told CTV’s Power Play that people experiencing mental illnesses should be provided with more access to treatment, rather than “arming them with the devastating final method of suicide.”
Batters said that “unfortunately” many people who might benefit from treatment for mental illnesses aren’t offered any medical help until they unsuccessfully attempt to end their lives.
“People in that particular situation, it feels like they’re in a tunnel and no one has ever felt like this before and there’s no way out,” she said. “So I feel it’s really important to preserve hope for people.”
Although polls have shown substantial support for assisted-dying, Batters said she believes most people only support it in cases where a person has terminal illness, rather than one where they might recover with treatment.
“Psychological suffering is not an untreatable condition,” she added. “There are many people who live through very severe anxiety and depression and come out the other side and have wonderful productive lives for many years.”
Batters said she also takes issue with the fact that the committee wouldn’t require one of two doctors signing off on assisted-death to be a psychiatrist.
The committee also recommended “mature minors” be afforded the right to doctor-assisted dying, within three years of adults gaining the legal right.
The four Conservative MPs on the committee dissented to the Liberal-written majority report, citing similar arguments to those Batters is making.
Committee member and Liberal Sen. James Cowan, who also appeared on Power Play, argued that assisted dying is “not a substitute for treatment, not a substitute for palliative care.”
“What we’re saying is,” he added, “suffering from mental illness, psychological suffering, can be every bit as traumatic as pain from a physical illness, so we shouldn’t discriminate.”
Cowan added that “obviously special care has to be taken in assessing their capacity to request physician-assisted dying.”
Cowan also said he believes mentally ill people would still opt to consult a psychiatrist or other specialist, “just as you would, if your complaint was bone cancer, consult with an oncologist.”
Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould said in a statement that she believes “it is important that we protect people’s choices and freedoms in a way that makes sure our society protects the most vulnerable.”
The Supreme Court has given the federal government until June 6 to produce the legislation, after striking down the ban on assisted death as unconstitutional last year.