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OPINION: Thoughts on the delay of MAiD

Bashaw Star - 2/3/2024

The word coming out of Ottawa is that the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to include those solely with mental health issues is being delayed until 2027.

Personally, I'm taking that as a win for common sense.

Despite the delay, the federal liberals say that the legislation is still going to come, the committee studying the issues surrounding the rollout of the expansion just feels "more time" is needed to work out the bugs.

As a former Emergency Medical Technician, a healer, and someone who has struggled with mental health issues ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress, I have a hard time with this one.

In certain, select cases, such as when someone is dealing with a progressive and terminal illness, I have no issue with someone wanting to end things on their own terms.

However, when it comes to including mental illness, I struggle. Depression and suicidal ideation are diseases; they just impact the brain chemistry of what, by all accounts, can be viewed as the most important organ in the body.

These diseases can be long-term. They can be treatment-resistant. They can make a sufferer's life a living hell.

So, if someone has a mental health condition which significantly alters their quality of life, why should they be denied the same option for relief as those with terminal illness?

On the flip side, I can think of a few reasons.

First, how you feel today is not necessarily how you are going to feel tomorrow. The fact is, as you age, your brain changes; your brain chemistry changes. With therapy, medication, and time, it is possible for things to settle.

Second, pharmacologically, there are literally hundreds of medications that deal with mental health, and more treatments are being developed all the time. Just because one medication doesn't work, there's always another one to try. A new game-changing treatment could be just around the corner.

Three, a sufferer may not have had their "ah-ha" moment yet.

Speaking from personal experience, mental health treatment sucks. There are lots of appointments, lots of pills, and seemingly few answers. And as for psychiatrists, they can be a definite mixed bag. I've dealt with some okay ones; I've also dealt with some educated idiots.

Unfortunately, the educated idiots seem to be more prevalent.

However, I persevered, finally finding both a psychologist and a psychiatrist who proved to be a game-changing team for me.

I have been with the same psychologist for many years, and they have been very supportive over the years.

The psychiatrist I met on one of my, unfortunately, many hospital admissions. They knew the medications well and were able to find the right balance between being supportive and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I credit the level of success I have had in recent years to both of these professionals, and I never would have found them if I had not held on.

It was thanks to both of these professionals that I had my "ah-ha" moment and turned a corner, though there are still many things I need to do to keep myself where I am.

As for MAiD in mental health, I can see both sides.

After spending a significant portion of my life suicidal, I can honestly say that I am happy I made it through the gauntlet of my mental health journey, but I know my case is not always the usual. Still, I hope that it can offer hope to others.

I'm glad that the expansion has been delayed, and I only hope and pray that when and if it ultimately does come to pass, it is done right and used as an option of last choice, not first.

- Kevin Sabo is the editor of the Bashaw Star, Castor Advance and Stettler Independent newspapers for Black Press News Media