Expert available to discuss medical assistance in dying for persons with mental disorders

A newly published article written by Louis Charland from Western University’s renowned Rotman Institute of Philosophy and his collaborators warrants caution about proposals to explicitly allow in the new Canadian federal legislation medical assistance in dying (MAID) for persons diagnosed with mental disorders. The study cautions more generally about regulatory systems relying heavily on health care professionals’ skills in assessing the decision-making capacity of patients for MAID purposes, particularly of those suffering from mental disorders.

It is doubtful that our current knowledge and practices governing the determination of decision-making capacity will be able to bear the weight of the new federal legislation,” explains Charland. “The current standard of care in the area is still the individual clinical judgment of the attending physician, which is highly subjective and can often be highly variable, especially in difficult cases. In addition, most health professionals receive little or no training in this area. As things stand, then, difficult cases and challenges could multiply quickly and we need to realize this when contemplating new legislation, and be prepared for this if the legislation extends to some more controversial areas.”

“Decision-Making Capacity to Consent to Medical Assistance in Dying for Persons with Mental Disorders,” published by Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, was written by Charland, who holds appointments at Western’s Department of Philosophy, School of Health Studies and the Department of Psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Trudo Lemmens, the Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto, and Kyoko Wada from Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the Rotman Institute of Philosophy.

Charland and Lemmens are available to the media for commentary on this issue.

Commentary reflects the perspective and scholarly interest of Western faculty members and is not an articulation of official university policy on issues being addressed.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jeff Renaud, Senior Media Relations Officer, 519-661-2111, ext. 85165,, @jeffrenaud99

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