While it is illegal to coerce or assist someone in committing suicide, the act of taking one’s own life became legal in Canada in 1972. Many people suffering intolerably do resort to suicide, but the harm caused by suicidal thoughts, failed attempts and suicide deaths is staggering.
Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada; cancer, heart disease and stroke are the top 3 . It's the 2nd leading cause among youth age 10 to 19, and 7th among adults 45 to 64 years. Each day, an average of 10 people die by suicide in Canada. Mental health problems or illnesses account for 90% of suicides. (HealthyCanadians.gc.ca)
“For every 1 suicide death there are 5 self-inflicted injury hospitalizations, 25-30 attempts and 7-10 people profoundly affected by suicide loss.” HealthyCanadians.gc.ca
MAID allows an individual a safe and painless death, one that is less traumatizing to both the patient and his/her loved ones.
The Centre for Suicide Prevention published an infographic to highlight the differences between suicide and physician-assisted dying; making clear the differences and societal costs of each. Whereas “suicide is often impulsive, violent and carried out alone”, a medically-assisted death is well planned and thought out. Suicide is devastating not just for the victim, but also the survivors and can leave a lasting “legacy of pain”. MAID gives the patient an opportunity to consider all options and prepare his/herself for death. It also gives the patient’s family and loved ones time to say goodbye. In most places where medical assistance in dying is legal, the majority of patients die at home among loved ones.
To further illustrate the difference between the two, Andre Picard (Columnist, The Globe and Mail) wrote in a pre-legislation article, Suicide is an act of self-harm that is almost always a byproduct of mental illness like schizophrenia or severe depression … Calling medically assisted dying suicide is a lot like calling surgery a knife attack.
MAID protects medical professionals who follow the guidelines from criminal charges.
Bill C-14 provides protection and guidance for healthcare professionals and patients (who meet the eligibility requirements).
Prior to Canada's medical aid in dying law it was illegal for anyone to counsel or coerce someone to die by suicide. The current Criminal Code now includes an exemption for medical and nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and persons aiding a patient.
It remains illegal for anyone who is not a health care professional to counsel a person to die by suicide.
According to Canada’s Criminal Code with regards to counselling or aiding suicide:
241 (1) Everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years who, whether suicide ensues or not,
(a) counsels a person to die by suicide or abets a person in dying by suicide; or
(b) aids a person to die by suicide.
For more information on your rights and Medical Aid In Dying, please visit Canada’s Department of Justice at justice.gc.ca.
If you're considering suicide or are experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek help. You are not alone.
Contact a crisis centre (Canada) - Find a crisis centre in your province
Call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 (Canada)
Talk to a friend, family member or someone you can trust