A Vancouver hospital raised the subject of euthanasia with a woman in the midst of a mental health crisis, it has been revealed.
When Kathrin Mentler attended Vancouver General Hospital seeking psychiatric help, a staff member asked if she had considered death by so-called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).
Since legalising euthanasia in certain circumstances in 2016, Canada has already abolished the requirement for a person to be terminally ill and intends to extend it to those who suffer from mental health problems in 2024.
Mentler explained that she went to the hospital’s Access and Assessment Centre in June, “because I didn’t want to get into a situation where I would think about taking an overdose of medication”.
“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 crisis.”
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During her assessment by a clinician, the 37-year-old was told there were “no beds” and that she should expect a long wait to see a psychiatrist as an out-patient.
At this point, feeling disheartened and helpless, Mentler said she was asked, “Have you considered MAID?”. The clinician then went on to speak of her “relief” at the death of another patient struggling with mental illness.
Mentler continued: “That made me feel like my life was worthless or a problem that could be solved if I chose MAID”.
Vancouver Coastal Health, which runs the hospital, apologised “for any distress caused” but claimed euthanasia was raised as a matter of procedure to assess whether a patient was at risk of self-harm.
In response, Mentler said: “MAID for mental health is not legal yet, so giving someone the specifics of the process seems wrong. How can this be standard procedure for suicide crisis intervention?”
The number of deaths attributed to euthanasia in Canada more than tripled between 2017 and 2021, and the total is projected to rise by a further 35 per cent in 2022.