By expanding euthanasia and assisted suicide to those suffering with a mental illness, the federal government is closing the door to “any hope of recovery,” Canada’s bishops have said in an open letter to the Government of Canada.

May 10, 2023 - Source: Catholic Register

In the letter, released May 9, the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says that by enabling or assisting in suicide for these patients it “reneges on our collective social responsibility to provide persons living with mental-health challenges with treatment, support and hope through therapeutic interventions.”

“Consistent with our strong objection to euthanasia/assisted suicide, we implore the federal government to heed the concerns voiced by many mental health experts, mental health and disability advocacy groups, communities, families and individuals and to repeal entirely or permanently suspend the expansion of ‘MAiD’ (medical assistance in dying) to persons whose sole medical condition is a mental illness,” the bishops wrote.

MAiD was supposed to be available to people with mental illness by March this year, but has been put on hold until March 17, 2024 as the federal government says it will take a closer look at expansion. The bishops noted that a recent poll shows that only 31 per cent of Canadians support legislation expanding MAiD to the mentally ill.

The bishops have been a constant opponent of MAiD since well before it was legalized in Canada in June 2016, saying “it undermines the universal and inviolable dignity of human life and harms the building up of society.” It is “even more objectionable” to expand this “since it is known that health care across Canada is failing to provide accessible and reliable treatment for patients living with mental-health challenges.” The bishops have called on federal and provincial governments to allocate more resources and funds for mental health and palliative care, particularly since oversight bodies and media are reporting “troubling” cases of people seeking an assisted death due to factors such as loneliness, poverty, social pressure and a lack of support and access to care.

“Recognizing our common dependency on each other in varying degrees throughout life, we are called to support one another with compassionate care and meaningful encouragement,” the bishops wrote. “Patients should have access to comprehensive palliative care and social support.”

The bishops also delivered a message to Catholic faithful the same day, ensuring that the conference will continue “advocating for a culture of social responsibility and care for human life at all stages and in all circumstances.”

“The Christian faith proclaims the compassion of Jesus, who in the Gospels, brought healing, attention and care to others,” the bishops wrote. “We are called, as Christians today, to continue to give witness to our Lord’s actions and presence by following His example.

“Let us not forget to pray for those living with mental health challenges, including mental illnesses, and for those who care for them, that God may strengthen them in hope, and that they may find the support they need from family, health-care professionals, faith communities and others.”