Young Canadian who fought for assisted suicide for mentally ill has died
A young Ontario man who fought for the right to die for mentally ill Canadians has ended his own life after struggling for years with what he described as extreme pain stemming from a psychological condition.
Adam Maier-Clayton, 27, became the face of mental illness in the debate over assisted death in Canada, which became legal in June 2016. The legislation, known as Bill C-14, only allows adults with select advanced physical disabilities or ailments to commit suicide with the help of a willing doctor or nurse practitioner. So far, hundreds of patients across the country have ended or applied to end their lives.
“I was just informed that my beautiful son, Adam Maier-Clayton, has committed suicide,” his mother, Margaret Maier, wrote in a Facebook post on Friday. “He was in such pain and yet, continued to battle with dignity until the very end.”
Since then, there’s been an outpouring of condolences on his Facebook wall, where he often posted livestreams about his illnesses and why he believed people like him should have access to legalized assisted death. He received messages of support and condemnation from people around the world.
In an interview with VICE News last December, Maier-Clayton described how he was diagnosed with a range of mental issues over the course of his life including severe anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dissociative disorder. He said all of this made him feel unbearable physical pain — although no doctor had been able to figure out the exact cause. He took at least 15 prescription pills every day and was relegated to bed most of the time.
“Bill C-14 absolutely must be amended so that sufferers of refractory illness (both mental and physical) have the ability to decide for themselves if they wish to continue suffering.”
“It just feels like I’m a 27-year-old physically fit male with the body of an 85-year-old. I can’t function,” he said at the time, adding that the year 2017 would likely be his last.
Maier-Clayton spoke openly about ordering powerful lethal, and illegal, barbiturates to have on hand for when he decided to end his life.
“Bill C-14 absolutely must be amended so that sufferers of refractory illness (both mental and physical) have the ability to decide for themselves if they wish to continue suffering and enduring their illness or not,” he wrote in his last Facebook post on April 13. “If not, giving them a dignified, painless way out of their suffering is what we need to do if we wish to truthfully be able to consider ourselves a civilized society.”
In March, Quebec became the first province to explore allowing dementia patients to give advance consent for assisted death, something that’s not allowed under the existing federal law.
Although Maier-Clayton’s family didn’t immediately respond to messages from VICE News, the head of the Australian non-profit assisted suicide advocacy group Exit International, of which Maier-Clayton was its youngest member, tweeted a goodbye message regarding his death on Saturday.
— Philip Nitschke (@philipnitschke) April 15, 2017
“Adam was a strong believer in personal choice, and an advocate for rational suicide, and we had many long Skype arguments over the best ways of ensuring that the needs of younger people are met,” Dr. Philip Nitschke said in a statement released on Sunday. He said that shortly before he died, Maier-Clayton disclosed details of his plan, along with the drugs he intended to use.
“It was clear he would not fail.”
Cover: Alyson Hardwick/VICE News