This text is from the webcast that was broadcast today by Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet
On October 6, Health Canada’s second interim report on medical assistance in dying was published. It adds statistics from January to June 2017 to the earlier report, which covered the period from June to December 2016.
The data indicates that 1,179 people died between January and June 2017, bringing the total deaths in Canada to 2,149 since the Québec program launched in December, 2015. All but five of those died by euthanasia. The January to June numbers represent 0.9% of deaths across Canada. This is more than the most recent percentages available for Oregon (0.37%) but less than the numbers for Belgium (1.83%) and the Netherlands (3.75%). The number of deaths increased by 46.8% compared to June to December 2016; 803 people died during that period.
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We know that the average age of people who died by euthanasia is 73 years. Cancer was the most frequently cited underlying health issue, followed by neurodegenerative conditions. Over 80% of the deaths took place in hospitals or homes. The number of women versus men is about the same; there were slightly more women last year, and more men this year.
The more important information is what’s missing – and once again, quite a bit has been left out. There is no data for the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, due to the territories’ small population. Neither Ontario nor British Columbia, the two provinces with the largest number of AS/E deaths, reported how many requests for assisted suicide were received, and how many were refused. As well, Health Canada did not include information about people who received court permission for euthanasia before the law came into force in June 2016.
There is no information about the living situation or other circumstances of the people who are killed (only the location where euthanasia took place). Did people have the pain relief and supports they needed to live well at home? Was anyone pressured to die? Were all safeguards followed? We have no way to know.
More information is supposed to be available once a monitoring system is put in place. Future reports under this system should include:
- a broader set of data
- a statistical overview of all requests and their outcomes
- medical and demographic information;
- information about whether eligibility criteria and safeguards were followed.