By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
This week the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) published a study by Aaron J. Trachtenberg, MD DPhil, and Braden Manns, MD MSc., titled “Cost analysis of medical assistance in dying.”
Canada has a universal healthcare system, whereby the financial cost for healthcare is primarily covered by the government. The researchers found that depending on the number of euthanasia deaths, the Canadian healthcare system will save between $34.7 and $138.8 million dollars per year with “the legalization of medical assistance in dying.”
The estimated reduction in annual health care spending, based on a Netherlands study, was derived by estimating the number weeks that lives were shortening by euthanasia, multiplied by the average cost of care for a person nearing death, and multiplied by the likely number of euthanasia deaths in Canada. The study also considered the cost of the euthanasia procedure and potential variable costs related to patients using palliative care.
The researchers emphasize that they are not encouraging people to die by euthanasia, but in fact, this type of research creates social pressure on people to die by euthanasia.
First: Associating euthanasia with medical cost savings creates a belief that euthanasia is a social good. People who feel that their life has lost value may now consider it altruistic to “choose” to die by euthanasia.
I fear that the social pressure to save money and provide a greater access to organs for donation will become the ultimate form of social responsibility.
Secondly: Associating euthanasia with medical savings creates pressure for people who choose to live until they die. “How dare you choose to live. You are costing society money.”
By promoting the concept that euthanasia saves money coupled with the media stories and TV shows, such as Mary Kills People will create a new powerful social pressure to die.
Last weekend I was invited to speak to a group in a small Ontario community. After my presentation a man told me that he supported euthanasia based on the fact that his mother-in-law lived the last few months of her life, after having a stroke, lacking awareness. He asked me, what was the purpose for her life? He then said: how much did her care cost the government?
I responded by saying, “I guess euthanasia is not about ‘choice’ or ‘autonomy’ but rather killing people at the most vulnerable time of life.”
During the euthanasia debate very few people were speaking about the fact that Canada’s health care systems are facing a financial crunch.
The authors of this study suggest that the financial savings gained from premature deaths by euthanasia could be re-invested into palliative care. The authors of this study are naive. The more that people die prematurely by lethal injection, the less demand will exist for palliative care.
Dead people don’t need palliative care.