Conservative MPs are sounding the alarm after the Senate passed an amendment that may allow for people struggling with mental illnesses to seek assisted suicide.

At a press conference on Monday, Conservative MPs Rob Moore and Garnett Genuis voiced their opposition to an amendment made to Bill C-7 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) which they say exploits the mentally ill.

The MPs were joined by concerned Canadians and experts who strongly oppose the amendments, including survivors of mental illness.

“Under the Liberal government’s amendment, medically assisted death will automatically be expanded to cover those with mental illness in 24 months,” Moore said.

“At a time where Canadians often struggle to access mental health services, it sends a dire message — that the lives of those struggling with mental illness are not valued by this government.”

In late Feburary, the Senate passed amendments to Bill C-7 which would eventually allow mental illnesses to become a valid reason to seek assisted suicide, also known as medical assistance in dying (MAiD). The Trudeau government later endorsed the amendment.

Prior to the amendments, Bill C-7 clearly stated that mental illness was not a valid reason to seek assisted suicide. While it is not yet clear if the Liberals will ultimately vote in favour of the amended bill, they will permit the amended bill to move forward.  

Dr. Stephanie Kafie, a family physician with a specialization in elder care, explained that suicidal thoughts can be a long-term battle which usually ends with recovery. By allowing suicidal people seek assisted suicide, the bill will prevent vulnerable people from getting help.

“Giving up on patients by offering [assisted suicide] when they’re at their lowest and most challenging period of their lives is not good medicine,” she said.

“Mental illness can be treated, MAiD is not the standard of care for depression.”

Dr. Kafie noted that many Canadians do not have access to timely psychiatrics or palliative care, and that offering assisted sucide is not acceptable as an alternative.

The Conservatives have proposed their own amendment to exclude mental illness from Bill C-7. Genuis has also created a campaign calling on MPs to vote against the amendment and better support the mentally ill.

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