Legalizing Assisted Suicide Takes Away Mental Health Care for the Disabled

Opinion   |   Norman Kunc   |   Aug 10, 2016   |   6:40PM   |   Washington, DC

When I was born the doctors told my parents to put me in an institution. Luckily, my parents ignored the doctor’s advice and took me home.

Initially I went to a segregated school, and then argued my way into a regular school. I went on to complete an undergrad in Humanities and a Master’s in Family Therapy. I now have a successful career as a speaker. I’m married, I have two grown children, and I have a great life.

In the discussion about Canada’s assisted dying legislation, many people don’t realize how making disability a legitimate condition for suicide jeopardizes the safety of all disabled Canadians.

So let me try to explain.

What would happen if my wife died and I became depressed and suicidal?

Now if a non-disabled Canadian becomes suicidal, there is a commitment among psychiatrists and counselors to rekindle that person’s desire to live, and if necessary to protect that person from themselves.



However, as a disabled Canadian, if I become suicidal it is possible and even likely that the psychiatrist will see that as a rational and informed decision.
And that commitment to help me move through and beyond my suicidal state might now be seen as forcing me to live an unbearable life.

And so that psychiatrist may, in fact, help me die. That terrifies me.

As a disabled Canadian, I want the same commitment to suicide prevention that is afforded to non-disabled Canadians. This assisted-dying legislation takes away the mental health safety net for disabled Canadians.