Op-Ed: Mushrooms or MAiD, Minister?

by Spencer Hawkswell


Asking our government for Magic Mushrooms before Medical Assistance in Dying is “not ridiculous.” I said this in the May 30th CBC story covering Mr. Jody Lance’s judicial review, where a Federal Court Judge overturned a Health Canada decision to deny Mr. Lance access to medical psilocybin (magic mushrooms), an effective treatment for his severe headaches. The headaches are so bad that Mr. Lance qualifies for and has indeed contemplated medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Yet, Health Canada still denied his access to medical psilocybin, calling into question the competence and compassion of our government and pointing out major flaws in our current MAiD regulations. 

Why is it easier to access MAiD than it is to access psilocybin?

Mr. Lance applied for legal access to psilocybin through the Special Access Program, under the Food and Drugs Regulations, which allows Federal Health Minister Mark Holland to grant individuals access to novel drugs like psilocybin. Since 2022, more than 160 Canadians have been granted access to psilocybin through the Special Access Program. Mr. Lance’s argument for access was supported by both his doctor and a neurologist and asserted that he has a Charter right to access psilocybin. Most importantly, it was a plea for compassion to a Minister who knows what it’s like to struggle with mental health and contemplate suicide.

Health Minister Mark Holland has called attention to the lack of compassion in healthcare and politics in the past. In a 2023 CBC article, he referenced his own struggles with mental health and contemplation of death. 

So where is the compassionate and courageous Minister Mark Holland when he is needed most?

Federal Court Judge Simon Fothergill said that the ruling against Mr. Lance lacked intelligibility and that the Minister failed to address the patient’s potential Charter rights. Judge Fothergill has given Minister Holland and Health Canada 14 days to render a new decision, which will come on Friday, June 7th. I am calling out and upon Minister Holland to take decisive action and demonstrate leadership. Should the decision go against Mr. Lance, it will highlight a concerning lack of compassion for patients within our government and underscore a severe lack of clarity, leadership, and courage.

I hope that Mr. Lance will receive his exemption to access medical psilocybin so that he does not need to contemplate MAiD.

I hope that our Minister has the courage to stand up for what he believes in without hiding behind bureaucrats and party lines.

I hope others will soon also be able to access medical psilocybin as an alternative to medical assistance in dying.

So, what’s it going to be, Honourable Minister Mark Holland, Mushrooms or MAiD?

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