April 15, 2016, — The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) supports the federal government’s decision to further study mental health in relation to its new legislation on medical assistance in dying (Bill C-14), allowing time for thoughtful and expert consultation.
As amendments or additions are considered, all involved must safeguard the vulnerabilities of people living with mental health problems and illnesses, as well as their caregivers and clinicians. Mental illnesses and physical conditions must be treated equally under the law, but there are unique social, political, legal and ethical complexities intricately woven at end-of-life in the context of mental health. There are a number of issues at play — such as consent, autonomy, self-determination, the potential for recovery and the role of caregivers — that are front of mind for the many people that this legislation touches — including patients, clinicians, caregivers, family, people lived experience of mental health problems and illnesses, policymakers and legislators. Medical assistance in dying is complex to say the least, but we must remember that behind every court ruling and every line of legislation, there are people in their most difficult and vulnerable stage of life. It is critical that amendments to this legislation be done correctly and in partnership with the mental health community, especially those with lived experience.
The MHCC agrees that the Ministers of Justice and Health each need to take a measured approach in order to implement time-tested safeguards that protect the unique vulnerabilities of people living with mental health problems and illnesses, as well as their caregivers and clinicians. Governments should ensure that recovery-oriented mental health services are accessible to every Canadian, introduce concurrent suicide prevention policy initiatives and provide clarity about the important differences between suicide and medical assistance in dying.
The MHCC is committed to working with its government partners and will bring forth the voices of people with lived experience of mental health problems and illnesses, and from our mental health stakeholder community.
ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
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Kate Headley, Manager of Marketing and Communications
Mental Health Commission of Canada