What has happened in Canada since the passage of Bill C-14, the law which legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide on June 17th, 2016? In the bill, the term used to describe euthanasia and assisted suicide is medical assistance in dying.
Graham Slaughter of CTV News reported on December 28th 2016 that:
At least 744 Canadians have died by euthanasia or assisted suicide in 2016.
This means 4 deaths a day between June 17, 2106 and December 16, 2016.
According to the report, the numbers for the last six months until mid December, were:
Ontario: 180 deaths. The highest number of deaths by euthanasia or assisted suicide since legalization
British Columbia: 154 deaths
Alberta: 63 deaths (19 in the last month)
Manitoba: 18 deaths
Saskatchewan: 8 deaths
Nova Scotia: 16 deaths since October 31st
Newfoundland and Labrador: 4 deaths
Prince Edward Island: 0
New Brunswick, Yukon and Iqaluit: Did not release data. Media outlets in the Yukon did mention one case.
Quebec: Estimate of 300 deaths since December 2015. The Quebec law passed in June 2014 permits only euthanasia (lethal injections). Euthanasia became available in the province in December 2015.
Details are not provided as to how many of these deaths were done by euthanasia and how many were cases of assisted suicide.
Trudo Lemmens, an ethicist and professor of health law at the University of Toronto told CTV News that provinces should make more data available to protect patients from the possibility of abuse. Professor Lemmens stated:
“There is a concern that people who are vulnerable or who find themselves in a situation of vulnerability may be pressured consciously or unconsciously to opt for medical assistance in dying either because of financial circumstances or because the medical help that they need is not necessarily available.”
CTV News interviewed Dr. Ellen Wiebe who euthanized 40 patients in 2016. She predicted accurately that the number of deaths by euthanasia and assisted suicide will grow. She said:
“I know that it will increase. I expect that we’ll get to the point of the Netherlands and Belgium because their laws are similar to ours, and that would mean about 5% of all deaths.”
For us, this predicted future increase in the number of cases, is a concern as is the fact that in Holland and Belgium patients are sometimes euthanized without their consent or explicit request. What does the future hold for Canada?