BreakPoint: Canada, the “Right to Die,” and the Mentally Ill

Death through Despair and Deception

We could have predicted this: Canada may extend the “right to die” to the mentally ill. It’s an evil idea.

In 2015, Canada legalized physician-assisted suicide. We have talked about the Canadian decision several times on BreakPoint. In March, in fact, we talked about how many Canadian doctors who had originally indicated a willingness to be the “physician” in “physician-assisted suicide” were having second thoughts.

Now, there’s a campaign to extend what Canada calls “physician assistance in dying” beyond the terminally ill to include the mentally ill. This comes as no surprise to those who have followed the trajectory of Belgian and Dutch laws, which have served as a model for the rest of the world.

Not only is this a terrible idea, it’s also what’s to be expected if, as Wesley J. Smith told Fox News, “society broadly accepts the agenda of killing as an acceptable end to human suffering . . . We eliminate suffering by eliminating the sufferers.”

But even if you don’t believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life, and even if you could rationalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, extending this “right” to the mentally-ill is an idea that should be resisted at all costs.

The reason why lies in how “mentally ill” is defined. The expression “mental illness” is a broad category that includes different psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and clinical depression, to name but a few.

While these disorders are different in their symptoms and how they are treated, they share one vital characteristic: a disconnect between what the person’s mind says is true about, well, almost everything, and what is actually true. As a friend of mine has put it, “our minds can be terrible liars.”

There’s a reason that arguably the greatest book ever written about living with mood disorders was entitled “An Unquiet Mind.” People who live with mental illness, especially bi-polar disorder, depression—as I do—and anxiety disorder, spend a lifetime reminding themselves that just because they think something—a “something” that nearly always portends evil, suffering, and despair—does not make it true.

And that’s just the medical side. As 1 Peter tell us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The “devouring” takes various forms, one of which is to make us miserable. How? By lying to us about, well, everything.

The Adversary’s goal is to induce despair, which Thomas Aquinas defined as “ceasing to hope for a share of God’s goodness,” and make us call God a liar when He tells us in Psalm 34, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.”

The distortions caused by mental illness, coupled with what Christians know about our Adversary, render the notion of consent in the Canadian proposal absurd. When you hear, “please let me die,” you can never be certain whose words you’re hearing: the person’s, the illness’s, or the Adversary’s.

None of this is to deny that mental illness can be painful, even excruciating. Even for the devout Christian, it can seem like a dark wood from which there is no escape.

But in virtually every instance, that, too, is a lie. The late James Cavanaugh, a Jesuit priest, once wrote that “If we could count the fears, both small or large, that once hounded us, and then thank God for each dreaded outcome never met, we would reach no end to gratitude.”

The Canadian proposal, if adopted, ensures that vulnerable people will never know how wrong they could be and, thus, experience the gratitude Cavanaugh wrote about.

All of which makes assisted suicide for the mentally ill a terrible idea based on a terrible lie.

 

Further Reading and Information

Canada, the “Right to Die,” and the Mentally Ill: Death through Despair and Deception

As Eric said, extending laws for “assistance in dying” to the mentally ill is a terrible idea, and one that Canadians and Americans should vigorously oppose. We must be the ones who speak up for the vulnerable among us, just as Christ did. For further discussion on this topic, check out the resources listed below.

 

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Resources

Second Thoughts on Assisted Suicide: Canadian Doctors Balk
  • John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | March 15, 2017
Life's Worth: The Case Against Assisted Suicide
  • Arthur J. Dyck, Dennis P. Hollinger, Francis J. Beckwith Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company November 2002

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  • Phoenix1977

    Recently I saw a patient in the Emergency Room of my hospital during one of my night shifts. She had jumped of a 8 storey building in attempt to take her own life and shattered pretty much every bone on her lower body. We had a somewhat macabre celebration while she was there because that was her 100th suicide attempt in 8 years time. The young woman was 23 years old at that moment. She was diagnosed with depression at the age of 11, but according to her parents they never, in her entire life, saw their daughter happy. But the age of 15 she was diagnosed with severe depression, following her first suicide attempt, and was declared mentally incapable because of that. 6 years later, after having tried every treatment in the book, including electroshock therapy, she was diagnosed with therapy resistant depression. By then she attempted suicide over 30 times already and she was admitted to a closed psychiatric ward where she needed to be monitored 24/7. And even than she managed to attempt suicide 70 more times. Every psychiatrist ever involved in her case agreed on the same principle: there was no treatment available and no way to ease her suffering. The only thing they could do for her was to force her to live in inhumane circumstances. She even had a PEG feeding tube because 2 years earlier she attempted the refuse food and water. But, because she was declared mentally incapable, her guardian (a lawyer appointed by the courts, not even a family member) made it clear she would live even if it killed her.

    As a physician I took an oath: “First, do no harm”. But I was harming this young woman, just as I was harming her parents, who begged me to let her die. Unfortunately, her guardian was already there and threatened with legal action if I did not do everything I could to save her life. I asked one of mu collaegues to take over the case because I could not bring myself to prolong this girl’s suffering anymore. And I was pretty sure I was going to wipe that smug grin of her “guardian”‘s face if I had any more interaction with him.

    This case was in the Netherlands, where mentally ill who are suffering from therapy-resistant illnesses (which is not the same as untreated) can ask for euthanasia. But not this girl because she was declared mentally incapable and only her “guardian” could petition the courts to undo that. But since he got paid to perform as her guardian that was not going to happen. So she would be patched up and send off, back the mental institution where her suffering would continue.

  • Messianic Fuzz

    Wake up people…this is what you get when a nation turns away from God.

  • Dave G

    Eric and Roberto, this is a great article. I thank the Lord for your gifts and vulnerability. Depression may provide an avenue for you to communicate and relate such Truths to others – and save lives.

  • Rickforlife

    My wife of 48 years has dementia and I care for her at our home. I believe that as long as I am strong and healthy I can protect her from MAID (Medical assistance in dying). However if she has to enter the hospital and come under the control of the medical system I will have to be extremely vigilant. Our hospital in Abbotsford BC has already euthanized 16 people .

  • desertdaniel

    Excellent summation of a Satanic plot. I would echo Jon Rappoport, though, by saying that the DSM is a work of fiction. By that I mean that it arbitrarily assigns or invents categories and labels for various mental and emotional disturbances. Dr. Peter Breggin, Robert Whitaker, and others have suggested this. By this I do not mean to say that these problems don’t exist, but the DSM shapes these disorders toward drug therapy. Our bodies can be imbalanced, of course, but the root of the problems is really spiritual. As Whitaker points out in “Mad in America” the Quakers had more success in helping people by using kindness and talk therapy than the “snake pits” did with various “cut, burn, and poison” methods. I am mildly autistic and my wife suffers from a mood disorder, but by prayer and faith we persevere.

  • CAS

    From all the accounts I have heard of terminally ill people using medical assistance in dying, not one utilized the service because they were in intractable pain and suffering, which is what proponents of the bill say it is all about-ending suffering. Most, if not all that I have heard of who have used it, used it because they were afraid of the end, depressed about their diagnosis, etc. Depression and anxiety are usually treatable and doing so is part of good hospice care.

    I struggle a bit with the extending of assisted suicide to the mentally ill; I have lived with mental illness since I was 12, so over 30 years. In those 30 years, I have had maybe two years of feeling ‘well’-and those two years were not consecutive. After 30 years of severe depression and post traumatic stress disorder, medications that don’t work, therapies that do very little and the stigma from society, it is very, very hard to want to keep living, knowing I may have to face another 20-30 years of feeling like this.

    If I was choosing to end my life due to cancer or ALS, it would generally be respected and I’d be hailed a hero, and oh so brave. If I think about it now, I’m pressed to think how, “Ten years down the road, there could be a new medication…”-I can barely make the next 10 minutes some days, let alone 10 more years.