Third reading of Bill C-62, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), No. 2

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

Share this post:

Whale tail breaching water, Newfoundland

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Honourable senators, I want to take a few minutes to give voice to a few Canadians who have written to us on Bill C-62 from various perspectives.

I will start with a letter from Jane in Ontario. She writes a personal and pointed letter:

I am a 75-year-old woman, and I have suffered for decades with a new psychiatric diagnosis called “Complex PTSD”. This diagnosis usually stems from childhood traumas, never acknowledged or resolved, followed by a series of traumas throughout life which layer and layer, and become interlocked by triggers (an instantaneous negative psychological and physical repulsion).

. . . my condition is irremediable and my MAID application, with 50 years of psychiatric records (1500+ pages) of no trauma treatment until 2020, would be approved by trained, MAID Psychiatric Assessors. I suffer flashbacks, nightmares, triggers and sobbing every waking minute; medications dull the avalanche of past horrors for half an hour.

I have received excellent trauma treatment since 2020 . . I have unburied layers of traumas.

Those who have served at the parliamentary committee level have heard from experts that Canada is ready for this change in law, and from a handful of people like me who live with treatment-resistant, intolerable mental pain and suffering. Now the government is proposing a 3-year delay; how many Parliamentarians spoke to someone with lived experience like me before making this decision? I don’t know of one.

I do not want to plan a suicide. I simply have a desire to end my tragic life, Which has never been and never will be meaningful, productive or joyful-with dignity. I want the choice to have a peaceful death with my loved ones by my side. Please allow me this last personal freedom.

Next, a letter from multiple constituents addressing their views that mental illness is no less real than physical illness:

Dear Andrew Cardozo,

I write to you today, as a constituent and as an advocate for end-of-life choice, to renounce Bill C-62 . . .

Suffering caused by a mental disorder is no less “real” than suffering caused by a physical illness, injury, or disability. In many cases, symptoms of a mental disorder are indistinguishable from those caused by a non-psychiatric medical condition. It is wrong — and unconstitutional — to continue to exclude individuals with mental disorders from equal access to the law. People across Canada who have been suffering from a treatment-resistent mental disorder should have the same right to autonomy and choice as individuals with grievous and irremediable physical conditions. They do not need to be told what’s best for them — they want the right to make their own choices.

Depriving someone of their legal and constitutional rights is a serious matter and has gone on for long enough. I support MAID for individuals whose sole underlying condition is a mental disorder and do not support the passage of Bill C-62.

Next, I’ll briefly read a letter from Matthew:

I’m severely mentally ill from treatment-resistent depression. I can’t work because of it. Suicide is a terrible thing to go through both as the victim and everyone else around who are involved. Including emergency personnel. I’ve struggled with depression for many years personally and have had friends who have as well, one in particular who was my best friend died by suicide a few years ago with no warning.

One major thing to consider is the manner in which non‑medical suicide is conducted. . . .

I’m here to advocate for a dignified death. I don’t think anyone should have to die alone and be put through the pain and unpredictability of any non medical way of ending their life.

Next, I want to read from a letter from Val, who is in favour of Bill C-62:

I am so happy and relieved that the Joint Committee studying MAiD for Mental Illness was willing to hear what Canadians were saying and concluded that we cannot in good conscience expand assisted suicide to those with mental illness.

I understand that there is now a Bill C-62: to Delay Expansion of MAiD to the Mentally Ill.

I respectfully ask you to pass legislation in response to Bill C-62.

This is a very personal issue for me.

Please do all you can to delay MAiD, or completely eliminate MAiD for those with Mental Illness.

Last, I want to read briefly from a letter that we have all received, signed by 127 physicians and nurses who say:

We are writing to you as physicians and nurse practitioners to express our concerns about Bill C-62 which will result in the continued exclusion of patients with mental disorders as their sole underlying condition from applying for MAiD.

When Bill C-7 came into force, mental disorders were excluded for two years to give governments and MAiD assessors and providers the time to put in place the processes to assess MD SUMC requests. That exclusion was to expire in March 2023, but was extended an additional year with a set of metrics to measure readiness. All metrics have been met, as was demonstrated before the Special Joint Committee of the House and Senate on Medical Assistance in Dying (AMAD). The Committee itself did not dispute this.

In closing, colleagues, I want to say that my approach to this issue is that there is no right or wrong answer, or right or wrong position to take, but I also completely respect those who believe there is a right or a wrong on either side of this debate.

Colleagues, thank you for listening. A special and sincere thanks to all Canadians who have written to us. This is one of the most difficult issues we have had to address as Canadians and as legislators. Thank you.

Share this post: