Vancouver clinician asks 'suicidal' woman if she wants to access 'assisted dying' procedure: report

While waiting hours to see a psychiatrist, a clinician allegedly asked if Kathrin Mentler, 37, had considered medical assistance in dying (MAID) as treatment for her chronic suicidal thoughts. The ask prompted Mentler to feel 'worthless.'

Vancouver clinician asks 'suicidal' woman if she wants to access 'assisted dying' procedure: report
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Though doctor-assisted suicide is not yet legal for Canadians suffering solely from mental illness, healthcare workers reportedly suggested that a 37-year-old woman call it quits over her suicidal thoughts.

Kathrin Mentler lives with chronic suicidal ideation and in June sought psychiatric help at Vancouver General Hospital, as first reported by the Christian Institute.

Amid a mental health crisis, Mentler needed help refraining from self-harming behaviours, including drug overdoses.

"I didn't want to get into a situation where I would think about taking an overdose of medication," she said.

"That day, my goal was to keep myself safe. I was thinking of maybe trying to get myself admitted to hospital because I was in a crisis."

While waiting hours to see a psychiatrist, a clinician allegedly asked if Mentler had considered medical assistance in dying (MAID), prompting her to feel "worthless."

The clinician reportedly told Mentler that she felt "relief" after patients with mental illness died by suicide through MAID.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) replied to a request for comment by the Institute, apologizing for any distress the incident caused Mentler. However, they said offering MAID to patients is procedural in assessing their risk of self-harm.

While delivering assisted dying to Canadians with an 'irremediable' mental illness is illegal, an Independent Senator said last March, "the debate about the issue is over."

"The expansion issue has already been decided upon," said Senator Stan Kutcher, who claims Ottawa convinced Canadians to include mental illness as a sole reason to access the procedure.

In March, Parliament hastily passed a bill to delay the expansion of assisted dying eligibility until March 17, 2024, to ensure sufficient training and practice standards for provincial regulatory bodies and practitioners.

According to a recent poll by Angus Reid for Cardus, another Christian think tank, most Canadians support Ottawa's first two iterations of assisted dying legislation. However, many expressed concerns about expanding it to mental illness as a sole condition.

Nearly three-fifths (56%) of Canadians supported the first law in 2016, while 16% opposed it. Approximately two-fifths of respondents praised people's ability to control their end-of-life decisions, but one-quarter disagreed.

Ultimately, support fell to 31% for offering MAID for irredeemable mental illness. It said half opposed the idea, with 18% unsure. 

After the procedure became legal in 2016, a Québec court expanded access after judges ruled the "reasonably foreseeable" death clause unconstitutional.

In 2021, Ottawa permitted anyone with "a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability" who is in "an advanced state of irreversible decline" to access MAID — not including the mentally ill.

Meanwhile, B.C. MP Ed Fast proposed a private member's bill condemning the MAID extension. 

"Those suffering from mental disorders, including depression, deserve mental health, social support, and counselling. They need to find joy and meaning in life," he said, disapproving of Ottawa's push to embrace a "culture of death."

Kutcher, a psychiatrist by trade, urged Canadians not to think mentally ill patients lack agency.

"Just because an individual might belong to a group that is considered vulnerable, doesn't mean that individual is vulnerable," he said, inviting his opponents to challenge the law at the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Since 2016, the number of Canadians accessing the procedure has risen significantly. 

The country recorded 31,664 assisted deaths between 2016 and 2021, with an average year-over-year growth rate of roughly 66%. In 2021, Canada recorded 10,064 such deaths.

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  • By Sheila Gunn Reid

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