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Opinion

Canada’s Assisted Dying law - one year later, more deaths than expected

Alex Schadenberg Alex Schadenberg Follow Alex

June 22, 2017 (Euthanasia Prevention Coalition) — One year after the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, Canada has become the prime example of how legalizing assisted dying cannot be controlled and why these laws are naturally expansive. Society needs policies that encourage caring and not killing.

On June 17, 2016; Canada's Senate passed euthanasia bill (C-14) in time for their summer break. Even though some groups claimed victory based on the amendments to C-14, EPC was concerned by the fact that the most dangerous language in C-14 remained intact.

Bill C-14 employs poorly defined language that (in my opinion) is designed to enable expansion of Canada's euthanasia law.

More people are dying by euthanasia than projected.

Even though we are well into 2017, the data from 2016 indicates that there were 970 reported assisted deaths in Canada

Other than Québec, where there were 463 deaths in the full year, these deaths occurred in 6.5 months (June 17 - Dec 31). The percentage of assisted deaths is highest in British Columbia, where there were 188 assisted deaths, where they have two euthanasia clinics, as compared to 189 assisted deaths in Ontario. The 970 reported assisted deaths represented 0.6% of all deaths in Canada. 

There may be more assisted deaths than reported

According to the report, not every province has a legal requirement to report assisted deaths while Nunavut and the Yukon territories did not submit information based on privacy concerns and the small number of assisted deaths.

CBC news report (April 20) stated that there were more than 1324 assisted deaths since legalization.

The number of deaths is high in comparison to Belgium where there was 235 reported assisted deaths in its first full year (2003), 349 in its second full year and 393 in its third full year after legalization. Currently Belgium is approximately 1/3 of Canada's population. 

In 2015, there were 2021 reported Belgian assisted deaths, up from 1924 reported assisted deaths in 2014. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 2015) found that more than 40% of the assisted deaths were not reported in 2013.

Conscience rights for medical professionals are not protected.

Bill C-14 did not protect conscience rights for medical professionals. The Coalition for HealthCare and Conscience launched a legal challenge to the Ontario College of Physicians policy that forces physicians, who oppose killing, to "effectively refer" their patients to a physician who will kill. Effective referral is defined as referral for the purpose of the act. The court case was heard (June 13 - 15) in an Ontario court. Some physicians will leave Ontario if they are forced to participate in euthanasia.

At the same time, the Québec government has pressured palliative care units to participate in euthanasia.

Conscience rights are recognized in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedom but the euthanasia lobby claims that patients have a "right to access" euthanasia and thus claim that conscience rights must be limited.

Expansion of euthanasia law.

Before the ink was dry, the first court case was launched to expand Bill C-14. Recently two people from Montreal launched a similar court case to expand Canada's euthanasia law to people who are not terminally ill.

Canada's federal government did not waste time to announce that they were conducting research into expanding euthanasia to people with dementia, who stated in their advanced directive that they wanted to die by euthanasia, children, and people with psychological suffering alone.
 

Abuse of the law.

The 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. 

In late September 2016, Dr Will Johnston reported on two British Columbia deaths that appear to abuse the euthanasia law. In November I was contacted by a man who stated that his Aunt, who died by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection.

According to the Québec government first year report 14% of the assisted deaths did not comply with the law.

The euthanasia debate needs to go beyond theory and buzz words and become based on human reality. People usually ask for euthanasia when they are emotionally and/or psychologically distraught by their medical or personal situation. Therefore euthanasia becomes an abandonment of people at the most vulnerable time of their life.

The answer to euthanasia is to care for people and not to kill people.

Further to that, a Canadian bioethicist is already promoting euthanasia / organ donation, a study was published explaining that up to 138 million dollars can be saved by euthanasia.

Once society crosses the line and decides that it is acceptable to kill people, the only remaining question is who will be killed.

Meanwhile a Toronto study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that requests for euthanasia were based on existential distress and not uncontrolled pain.

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