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MPs and Peers warned by expert about impact of Canada’s euthanasia law

An expert on the impact of euthanasia legislation in Canada has warned UK parliamentarians that euthanasia legislation is a form of “abandonment” and that, in most cases, euthanasia deaths are “deaths of despair”.

At a parliamentary event this morning, organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well, Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada, told parliamentarians how the Canadian euthanasia law had expanded to include people who were not terminally ill, and how the law in Canada will soon permit euthanasia on the basis of mental illness alone.

Schadenberg told those present that he considers “legalisation of euthanasia a form of abandonment” and, in most cases, euthanasia deaths are “deaths of despair”.

Euthanasia is often based on feeling depressed or hopeless

Contrary to the idea that euthanasia is a rational choice for those suffering and near death, he explained that “most people die by euthanasia because they are going through a difficult health condition, and they are feeling depressed, lonely or experiencing feelings of hopelessness and they believe that their life has no purpose”.

Statistics from Health Canada show that in 2022, 17.1% of people cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.3% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.

In addition, he told those present about a number of shocking cases in Canada over the past few years including one in which a veteran had been offered euthanasia rather than a wheelchair lift; another in which a man was accepted onto the euthanasia program even though the reason he wanted to die was fear of homelessness; and a third in which a disabled women applied for euthanasia because it was easier to access than disability support.

Rapidly expanding euthanasia law

During a short question and answer session after his presentation, one parliamentarian questioned these shocking instances and suggested that such things would not happen under any proposed assisted suicide law in Britain.

Schadenberg replied “That’s exactly what they said in Canada”.

“When we were debating this in 2015, the Netherlands stories and Belgium stories were constantly talked about, and the response was ‘we’re Canadians, that’s not going to happen’.”

But “that’s what happened” he added.

He also drew attention to the rapidly expanding number of people who are ending their lives in Canada. According to the latest statistics, in 2022, 13,241 people ended their lives by euthanasia or assisted suicide, up from 10,092 in 2021, a 31% increase in a single year.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “Euthanasia in Canada serves as a case study in why making euthanasia legal is a terrible idea. Supporters of assisted death said the law would not expand in Canada, but that’s exactly what happened. Supporters of assisted death in the UK say the same thing, but we should learn from the experience of Canada and recognise that if we make assisted suicide legal, Britain will likely end up in the same situation”.

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