CMHA position on Medical Assistance in Dying

Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) 

Light Through the Trees

As a recovery-oriented organization, CMHA does not believe that mental illnesses are irremediable, though they may be grievous or unbearable.

We recognize that people with mental illnesses can experience unbearable psychological suffering as a result of their illness, but there is always the hope of recovery.

CMHA’s position on medical assistance in dying in Canada, is that people with a mental health problem or illness should be assisted to live and thrive.


The Criminal Code was changed in 1973 to decriminalize suicide attempts, and recently, in 2016 to exempt health professionals who assist medical suicide.  The Canadian Mental Health Association position was, and is, that suicide prevention is a priority and adequate support services are a necessity.

In the 2016 legislation Bill C-14, people with mental illness were not eligible to request MAiD, nor were persons with dementia who could not be seen as competent to make the decision.

Canada’s new amendments to the Criminal Code, in response to a Supreme Court Decision, were enacted last year (2016).  Bill C-14 maintains counselling or aiding suicide as an indictable offence but adds some exceptions and safeguards. The legislation clarifies that no social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or other health professional commits an offence if they provide information to a person on the lawful provision of medical assistance in dying.  The recent legislation makes exceptions for medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists or other persons who aid a patient at the person’s explicit request  –  after the paperwork has been done.  The other important issue dealt with in Bill C-14 involved changing insurance clauses to allow assisted suicide to be treated as a “natural” rather than self-inflicted death.

The legislation specifies eligibility in cases of “intolerable pain” when end of life is reasonably foreseeable.“Intolerable suffering” is not defined by the legislation, but the individual with the illness determines what is intolerable and the time to ask for assistance.  There are requirements of foreseeable death due to the disease.  In the 2016 legislation, mental illness, without a medically diagnosed terminal condition, does not qualify for medically assisted death.  On the other hand, a person with mental illness can request MAiD when a non-psychiatric medical condition has been diagnosed and death is deemed inevitable.

For more information visit CMHA Position Medical Assistance in Dying