Assisted Dying, Mentally Ill — Food for Thought

  November 11th, 2017 by Mark_1981

… “Misperceptions about mental illness lead some people to oppose extending the right to medically assisted death to people with mental illness. Many believe that psychological suffering is less onerous than physical suffering. Others maintain that mental illness impairs the rational, careful thinking required to provide informed consent. And because mental illnesses are rarely associated with imminent natural deaths, providing medical assistance in dying seems premature, and perhaps even heartless, to many. These impressions offer poor guidance in the debate.

McGill University philosopher Daniel Weinstock and others have noted that the moral case for medically assisted dying rests on two principles—respect for individual autonomy and compassion. By allowing individuals to choose the time and manner of their deaths, just as we allow people to choose how they will lead their lives, we respect a principle with a long pedigree in liberal societies. We might prefer that individuals not end their lives prematurely, but we violate their autonomy if we prevent them from doing so. It is not clear why this principle should apply any less to people with mental illness than it does to people with physical illness.

Moreover, a principle of compassion holds that where there is suffering in society, we ought to do what we can to alleviate it. But where suffering is unavoidable, unnecessary and unbearable, offering medical assistance in dying is the compassionate course of action. In its decision in Carter v. Canada, the Supreme Court highlighted what Alheli Picazo rightfully calls a “callous dilemma.” Individuals who are “grievously and irremediably ill,” and who lack medical assistance in dying, “may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering. A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”

A compassionate society will provide an alternative that dissolves the dilemma and avoids cruelty. There is no reason why compassion, like autonomy, should apply less to those with mental illness than it does to others. …”

Source: www(dot)macleans(dot)ca/society/health/should-mentally-ill-canadians-have-access-to-assisted-dying/

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