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Large assisted suicide rate increase as 34% cite concerns of being a burden

The number of assisted suicide and euthanasia deaths in Canada rose by more than 25% in 2019 and made up 2% of all deaths in the country last year, according to a report released by the Canadian Government.

Health Canada’s first annual report on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) found 5,631 Canadians chose to have an assisted suicide in 2019. This is an increase of 26.1% when compared to the 4,467 deaths in 2018, where assisted suicide accounted for 1.57% of the total number of deaths in Canada.

More than a third (34%) of those who opted for “medical assistance in dying” cited concerns of being a burden to family or carers. A further 13.7% cited “isolation or loneliness” as their reason for procuring an assisted suicide.

Last year, 92.2% of requests for MAID were approved out of a total of 7,336 applications.

No conscientious objection

The report claims: “it should be noted that there is nothing in the federal MAID legislation that compels a practitioner to provide or assist in providing MAID.”

However, last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that doctors who oppose euthanasia had to participate in the act by doing an effective referral. In March 2020, the Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia reported that a growing number of physicians are being bullied into participating into providing euthansia or assisted suicide.

Further expansion of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada

Earlier this year, the Canadian Government tabled a bill seeking to expand the country’s assisted suicide and euthanasia regime to include people without a terminal illness.

The legislation, titled Bill C-7, comes after the Quebec Superior Court ruled last year that a safeguard requiring patients to prove their natural death was “reasonably foreseeable” was unconstitutional.

According to Reuters, the bill will now “remove the requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medical assistance in dying,” opening up assisted suicide and euthanasia to those who aren’t terminally ill.

Disability advocates, including the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, have said the court’s decision sent the message that “having a disability is a fate worse than death”.

Troubling concerns over assisted suicide in Canada

Earlier this year, it was revealed the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada has led to a surge in organ donations and the open solicitation of those considering medically assisted death, raising ethical concerns.

A recent report from a disability rights expert has highlighted very troubling concerns about the impact Canada’s assisted suicide laws are having on people with disabilities.

According to the report, “The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned about the implementation of the legislation on medical assistance in dying from a disability perspective. She has learned that there is no protocol in place to demonstrate that persons with disabilities deemed eligible for assistive dying have been provided with viable alternatives.”

The report goes on to say: “moreover, she [the special rapporteur] has received worrisome information about persons with disabilities in institutions being pressured to seek medical assistance in dying and of practitioners not formally reporting cases involving persons with disabilities.”

During her visit, the Special Rapporteur said people with disabilities told her “they are being offered the ‘choice’ between a nursing home and medical assistance in dying”.

More than 13,000 Canadians have been given a medically-assisted suicide or euthanasia since it was legalised in September 2016, according to the data from the justice department.

Ethical concerns were raised earlier this year when it was revealed the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the country had resulted in a surge of organ donations and the open solicitation of those considering assisted suicide or euthanasia. Additionally, an alarming study found that the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia could save the Canadian health care system up to $138 million per year.

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