A rabbi and a surgeon explain why they support MAID, and discuss whether to include those suffering from mental illness

Louis J Sachs and Karen Devon
Rabbi Louis J. Sachs (left) is a Toronto Conservative rabbi at Beth Torah Congregation who supports Canada's policy of permitting terminally ill patients and those with chronic diseases who are suffering, to end their lives, with a physicians' help. Dr. Karen Devon (right) is a Toronto surgeon who participates in providing medically-assisted deaths for patients.(Submitted photos)

Last week, the Canadian government announced it wants to postpone until 2027 the commitment to expand medical assistance in dying (MAID), which currently does not allow patients with mental illness to end their lives with a physician’s or nurse practitioner’s help.

MAID has been legal for terminally ill patients since 2016, and since 2021, for those with chronic illness, allowing nearly 45,000 Canadians to subsequently legally end their lives with the program. That number is growing every year.

The new mental health provision was actually supposed to come into effect this March, already a year later than originally planned. But the Liberal cabinet says the country’s health system still isn’t ready.

While Orthodox Jews are prohibited from taking one’s own life, and also medically assisting someone to end their own life, there is now some room for more nuanced approaches for MAID within the Conservative and Reform branches of the Jewish community—although expanding the program for patients suffering from mental illness is not yet on the books in this country. On today’s episode of The CJN Daily, Ellin speaks with Rabbi Louis J. Sachs of Toronto’s Beth Torah synagogue, who has come to support MAID, and also with Dr. Karen Devon, a surgeon at Women’s College Hospital and Toronto General, who is one of the nearly 2,000 Canadian physicians trained to carry out medically assisted deaths.

What we talked about:

  • Learn more about how a Vancouver Jewish nursing home became a flashpoint for medically assisted deaths in Canada, in The CJN
  • Read Lila Sarick’s feature article on MAID and Jewish seniors’ homes, from The CJN archives (2020)
  • Read the in-depth report from the Canadian government on MAID use in Canada from 2016-2022

Credits:

The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Zachary Kauffman is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To subscribe to this podcast, please watch this video. Donate to The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt by clicking here. Hear why The CJN is important to me.