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Medical assistance in dying should not be extended to patients with mental illness: expert

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WATCH: The National Assembly is studying the idea of expanding Quebec’s laws around medical assistance in dying. It is looking at extending the option to people with severe mental illness. But as Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea – May 21, 2021

The Quebec National Assembly is studying the idea of expanding Quebec’s laws around medical assistance in dying (MAID).

They are looking at extending the option to people with severe mental illness, however on Friday, one mental health expert spoke out about why she thinks that’s a very bad idea.

READ MORE: Quebec to expand assisted death to include mentally ill, but few expected to qualify

Dr. Georgia Vrakas, a psychologist and mental health researcher was diagnosed with bipolar type-2 disorder two weeks ago.

For more than 20 years, she was mistakenly treated for depression. At one point, things got so bad she called a suicide prevention hotline: “I was that low,” she said.

This is why she said she is against offering medical assistance in dying to patients where mental illness is the sole underlying condition.

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Dr. Vrakas said she is proof that things can turn around, and that not enough is known about mental illnesses. She said more investment is needed in research and health services.

“All the governments have cut services in mental health and to mental health promotion and (suicide) prevention, which is essential,” she said.

READ MORE: Medical assistance in dying: Do doctors need to know more about Canada’s new law?

A National Assembly special committee is studying the idea to expand Quebec’s medical assistance in dying laws.

They have been looking at issues like advanced consent for patients with Alzheimer’s, but Dr. Vrakas said extending the option to people with severe mental illness would send a message of despair.

“The message we would be sending, the message the government would be sending to people like me, is that there’s no hope,” she said.

Dr. Vrakas hopes her concerns will be considered in future legislation.

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