Dear Barb—Reaching the End

Dear Barb:

Hi, my mother has suffered from mental illness her whole life and it is getting worse.  Also, she has recently been diagnosed with MS and it is progressing very quickly.  My brother and myself are struggling with her situation.  She wants to end her life and my brother and I support her decision. 

The problem is her mental illness is standing in the way of her ability to provide consent to end her life.  We hate to see her struggle as much as she is.  Some days, she is lucid and clear thinking and other days the mental illness takes over.  We are wondering what to do.  We have considered getting a lawyer to fight for her rights, but we are not a rich family, do you have any advice for us? We love our mother very much and really wish she didn’t have to go through this devasting illness in her final days on earth.  Thank you so much, Gloria.

Hello Gloria:

So sorry your family is going through this difficult time.  I believe MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) is what you are referring to.  It is a relatively new law and at the present time it is not an option for a person with mental illness as their only medical condition.  However, your mother has MS as well, therefore her situation is not cut and dry.  The Government of Canada website about this provides very detailed information about MAID and I would suggest you check it out

Statistics indicate that by the time a person reaches 40 years old, one in two will have a mental illness or experience substance abuse, therefore this law must be carefully considered before it is included as an option for individuals suffering from mental illness alone.  Many people with mental illness can lead normal and healthy lives with the help of medication and various other treatments.  When in the grips of mental illness your mother may consent to ending her life, but when well, she may not feel the same way.  It will be important to discover what level of pain and suffering your mother is experiencing from her MS and what level of distress is actually because of her mental illness.  I would suggest you begin with your mother’s primary physician who will be able to guide you to the resources you need.

In the meantime, enjoy the time you have with your mother and try to create some special memories.  Best of luck Gloria.

Email your questions to voice@voicemagazine.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.
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