Batters Concerned About Assisted Suicide For Mental Health Patients

Canada has been considering the pros and cons of having laws that allow, and regulate, assisted death and suicide. However, this also raises a bit of controversy and a few concerns, from citizens and politicians alike.

Senator Denise Batters says that, pros and cons aside, they need certain stipulations on assisted suicide laws, especially when it comes to people who are suffering from mental disorders. She believes they should completely remove these people from any further legislation on assisted death and suicide decisions.

For the senator, suicide and mental struggles are too close to home. She is the widow of Dave Batters, former Tory MP. Dave Batters committed suicide in 2009 after battling with depression and anxiety himself.

“I have seen… the devastating impact, not only for the individual that goes through that pain themselves… but at the same time… I’ve seen the devastating consequences that it can have on the immediate family members,” Batters said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Senator Batters says that, while it is difficult to discuss her first-hand experience with mental illness and her beloved husband’s suicide, it also gives her strength, and the ability to share experiences that might help other families.

“It really helps me to know that I might be helping somebody by something I’m saying and if I can prevent somebody else from being in the situation I’m in, basically an unwilling family survivor of suicide,” Batters said.

She also mentioned in her interview that the Canadian citizens who support assisted death and suicide ideals want to see strong safeguards for mental health patients when the official bill hits the books.

“Canadians may support assisted suicide, but they want extremely strong safeguards and I think that when I talk to people about the possibility of psychological suffering being included as… sole grounds for having access to physician-assisted suicide, they are horrified and stunned that could be a possibility.”

Batters believes that many mental health problems can be treated, which is why she stands so strongly for leaving mentally ill patients out of the assisted suicide legislation.

“Unfortunately, my situation with my husband, did not have a good ending… however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many, many thousands of people in this country who have lived through a period of severe anxiety and depression and come out the other side.”

A special committee is preparing a draft of this proposed bill for the government. However, the high court is taking into account the rights of consenting adults who are of sound mind and capable of making decisions about their own health and medical treatment. They want these patients to keep their rights to do whatever they feel necessary if they are in insufferable pain, physical or mental. They feel that these people also have the right to choose to end their lives just like people who are not suffering from psychological disorders.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada says there are many mixed feelings when it comes to assisted suicide and patients who suffer from mental illnesses.

“The Mental Health Commission of Canada wanted to underscore the importance of the mental health of both those seeking physician-assisted death and end-of-life care providers,” said president Louise Bradley.

The commission has yet to reach an agreement on mental patients and their rights on assisted death and suicide and end-of-life care.

Liberals take issue with the entire bill and do not wish to allow free voting. However, Batters says that they should reconsider.

“I urge the Liberal caucus to think twice about that and give their members of Parliament the opportunity to vote with their conscience,” Batters said.

[Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images]