More than 1% of deaths in Canada caused by euthanasia

shutterstock 185341910 Patient in a hospital bed. Via Shutterstock

Over one percent of all deaths last year in Canada were the result of euthanasia, a new government report has revealed.

The Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada, released this month by Health Canada, showed that from January to October of 2018, a total of 2,613 people in Canada received "medical aid in dying," amounting to 1.12% of all deaths.

Only one person self-administered their own lethal does in a physician - assissted suicide. In all other cases, according to the report, the patient died following a deliberately administered lethal dosage by a doctor or a nurse at the request of the patient - effectively medicinal homicide.

Assisted suicide laws in the United States typically require patients to self-administer the drug, but this is not the case in Canada.

If a similar ratio of deaths were recorded in the United States, approximately 30,000 people--the equivalent capacity of Harvard University's football stadium--would die each year at the hands of doctor or nurse administered dosages.

In Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide, only 0.4 percent of deaths each year are from euthanasia.

These figures do not include the Northwest Territories, Yukon, or Nunavut, as numbers in these areas were extremely small, or Quebec, which has a different reporting system. Since December 2015 until March 2018, a total of 1,664 people have been killed by physicians in Quebec.

At the time the bill was first introduced in April 2016, Cardinal Thomas Collins from the Archdiocese of Toronto said that he thought it was a sign that society was heading in the wrong direction.

"At a ​time when our priority should be fostering a culture of love, and enhancing resources for those suffering and facing death, assisted suicide leads us down a dark path," said Collins.

"At first sight it may seem an attractive option, a quick and merciful escape from the suffering that can be experienced in life, but fuller reflection reveals its grim implications, not only for the individual but for our society, and especially for those who are most vulnerable. Such fuller reflection is sorely needed now."

In June 2016, the Canadian parliament passed Bill C-14, which legalized physician-assisted suicide and physician-administered euthanasia throughout the country. Since that time, more than 6,700 Canadians have died as a result of medicinal homicide.

The vast majority of physician-induced deaths in the first 10 months of 2018 took place in either a hospital or in the patient's home. About five percent occurred in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and another four percent were in hospice.

Only seven percent of those who received medical aid in dying were between the ages of 18 and 55. The average age of a person who was euthanized was 72, and it was nearly evenly split between men and women.

Over six out of 10 people who chose medical aid in dying had some form of cancer, which was by far the largest majority of cases. The next highest, with 16 percent, was circulatory/respiratory system issues.

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, accounted for 11 percent of medically-assisted deaths.

The report shows that very few people who requested medically-assisted dying would have their requests denied. In Canada's Atlantic provinces, which includes Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, fewer than seven requests were denied. A total of 30 people died before a decision could be made about whether to grant assistance in dying.

Presently in the United States, assisted suicide is legal in eight states. Many others are considering bills to legalize the procedure.

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The report's release comes shortly ahead of the 22nd National March for Life, to be held in Ottawa on May 9. Abortion has been legal in Canada for 50 years, when then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decriminalized the procedure in 1969. Trudeau's son, Justin Trudeau, is the current prime minister.

The younger Trudeau's government sparked controversy in the summer of 2018 when it enacted a new policy mandating that organizations with an opposition to abortion were not eligible for funding from the Canadian Summer Jobs program, even if the organization in question did no pro-life work at all. This requirement was eventually dropped after public outcry.

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