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Voluntary euthanasia on the rise in Canada, accounting for over 1% of deaths in 2018

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

April 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― An estimated 3,000 Canadians were put to death by medical professionals in 2018.

Health Canada, the medical department of the Canadian government, released its “Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying.” According to the report, 2,614 Canadians outside the province of Quebec and Canada’s three northern territories received so-called “medical assistance in dying” (MAID) between January 1 and October 31, 2018.

The report states that “we estimate that for the first 10 months of 2018, MAID has accounted for approximately 1.12 percent of the estimated total deaths in Canada during this reporting period.”  

It indicated also that 1,664 people in Quebec were euthanized between December 10, 2015 and March 31, 2018.  

According to Health Canada’s published records, this brings the total deaths of Canadians from legal voluntary euthanasia (i.e. since June 2016)  to 6,447 -- not including data for Canada’s northern territories.

Michael Cook of MercatorNet observed that “(at) the current rate, when all the figures are in, deaths in November and December will probably push last year’s total above 3,000.”

The report did not give figures for other euthanasia deaths in Quebec for 2018, nor did it provide information about euthanasia deaths in Canada’s sparsely populated and impoverished northern territories.

Health Canada provided charts that obscured the increase in euthanasia deaths in Canada since legalization. However, its statistics show that in the 12 months of 2017, 1,961 people chose euthanasia, whereas in the first 10 month of 2018, 2,614 died that way.

Intriguingly, although in 2016 four people chose to commit suicide under medical supervision ― administering the lethal drugs themselves ― subsequently only one person per year chose to do that. The others left the fatal act to a medical professional, almost always a doctor. In 2018, 93 percent of the euthanasia deaths were committed by physicians.

Patients are most often put to death in hospitals (44 percent in 2018), although their homes are a close second (42 percent in 2018).

Although most 2018 euthanasia deaths were suffered by Canadians age 65 and over, 49 patients (2 percent) were 45 or younger when they died. An additional 140 (5 percent) were age 46 to 55. The oldest patients to be euthanized, those over 90, numbered 265 (10 percent).

Sixty-four percent of those who chose euthanasia in 2018 were cancer patients.

Terrence Prendergast, SJ, the Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa, tweeted a link to the MercatorNet story and his feelings of foreboding.

“Troubling news, with ominous prospects on the horizon: At least 1.12 percent of deaths in Canada are due to euthanasia,” he wrote on Twitter yesterday.

When the “MAID” Bill was first introduced on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, Toronto’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal Thomas Collins, suggested that legalized euthanasia would lead Canada “down a dark path.”  

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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