Assisted Death 2016 in Canada – Facts and Figures

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The Globe and Mail reports that “at least 970 people in Canada received an assisted death last year, according to a new federal report that provides the first official snapshot of how medical aid in dying is playing out in hospitals and homes across the country.”

Of the total deaths in all of Canada, the assisted death numbers amounted to about 0.6%. This is based on a Health Canada report. ½ of the assisted deaths occurred in Quebec at 463. In Quebec, a separate “end-of-life law took effect” circa December 10, 2015.

This happened 6 months before the federal law related to assisted death took hold. The remaining 507 assisted deaths – medically so – happened between June 17 and December 31 of 2016. Patients wanting assisted death signed on for a variety of reasons.

“Cancer was the illness cited most often by patients granted an assisted death (in 56.8 per cent of cases), followed by neuro-degenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (23.2 per cent) and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (10.5 per cent).”

The average patient age was aged 72, with an almost even split between women and men. Health Canada is making new regulations for dealing with assisted dying. “The formal-monitoring regime is expected to include a broader set of indicators, including how well the eligibility criteria and safeguards in the law are working.”

Nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and physicians will be given this data when helping a patient with assisted death. Data from provinces is now public mostly public. The chief executive officer of Dying with Dignity Canada, Shanaaz Gokool, said, “How many people who’ve asked [for an assisted death]have a mental illness where they’re not imminently dying and don’t qualify?” Gokool emphasised the possibility of those losing capacities due to Alzheimer’s. She wanted quantitative data on the answers to these questions to inform the Council of Canadian Academies.

“Right now, medical aid in dying is limited to consenting adults who are suffering a grievous and irredeemable physical illness and whose natural death is ‘reasonably foreseeable.’ Some provinces are already collecting richer data that hint at the level of interest in hastening death with the help of a doctor.”

In 2015, the Canada Supreme Court struck down the Criminal Code provision against assisted suicide, which made assisted death/suicide illegal. In that act, it joined only a few other countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.

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