One year of euthanasia in Canada

One year after Canada passed the Medical Aid in Dying Act on June 17, 2016, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition says “Canada has become the prime example of how legalizing assisted dying cannot be controlled and why these laws are naturally expansive.”

According to Health Canada’s “Interim update on medical assistance in dying in Canada, June 17 to December 31, 2016, there were a total of 970 reported cases of euthanasia in Canada. They represented 0.6 per cent of all deaths in Canada.

Quebec has allowed euthanasia and assisted-suicide since December 2015 and Canada since June last year.

More than half of euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths were committed in Quebec, but they had nearly a half-year head-start. There were 463 euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths in the rest of Canada from June 17 through Dec. 31. The numbers do not include Nunavut and Yukon territories, which do not submit information based on privacy concerns. Ontario had 189 assisted deaths while British Columbia had 188.

Official numbers are not yet available for 2017, but in April, the CBC reported there were more than 1324 assisted deaths since legalization. That is an average of about 130 a month, or a pace to exceed 1500 over the 12 months since the Senate passed C-14.

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Schadenberg said Canada’s euthanasia law requires the physician, or nurse practitioner, who lethally injects their patient to self-report the act. “Self-reporting systems enables those who lethally inject their patients in questionable circumstances to cover-up abuse of the law,” Schadenberg warned.

The law is being challenged for being overly restrictive according to euthanasia advocates because it does not permit so-called mature minors to access the deadly procedure, prohibits advanced directives to express one’s wish to die if his or her health deteriorates, and limits euthanasia for those whose deaths are imminent.

Two cases were launched in Quebec seeking to expand euthanasia for those who are not terminally ill.

Last December, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government announced it would examine whether euthanasia should be extended to people with dementia or are suffering psychological harm and to children.

During the parliamentary debate on euthanasia, groups like the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Campaign Life Coalition warned that so-called safeguards would be either ignored or soon struck down.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine of euthanasia requests in several Toronto hospitals found that most requests for assisted-death were based on psychological suffering, not uncontrolled physical pain.

Schadenberg says, “The answer to euthanasia is to care for people and not to kill people.” He warns, “Once society crosses the line and decides that it is acceptable to kill people, the only remaining question is who will be killed.”

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