Contra Canadian Senator Kutcher: Suicide rates in jurisdictions that have legalized assisted death are not decreasing

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On November 24, I had the opportunity to present our brief on euthanasia Bill C-7 to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. 

After the presentations, Senators asked questions and made clarifications of the witness presentations.

Senator Stanley Kutcher

Senator Stanley Kutcher decided to challenge a witness by making a statement about suicide rates in jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal. 

Senator Kutcher stated that in jurisdictions, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, the suicide rates have dropped. He then stated that there is no link between euthanasia and the rate of suicide in jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal. He then challenged a witness, who is a suicide prevention expert, to explain why he is concerned about euthanasia, in relation to suicide prevention.

Senator Kutcher is simply wrong about legalizing euthanasia and its relationship to the rate of suicide. 

According to the World Population Review,  Belgium has the highest suicide rate in Western Europe and, as 20.7 per 100,000 people, the eleventh highest rate in the world. The Netherlands suicide rate has increased, over the past several years while the suicide rate in Europe has decreased.

Professor Theo Boer, who was a member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands for 10 years wrote in an article published on October 5 by the Irish Independent addressing just that point:

Professor Theo Boer

The logic of many is that assisted dying will bring down the numbers of violent and traumatizing suicides. If true, this would be a powerful argument in favour of changing the law. But the Dutch statistics speak another language. Whereas the percentage of euthanasia of the total mortality went from 1.6% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2019, the suicide numbers went also up: from 8.3 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2007 to 10.5 in 2019, a 15% rise… Meanwhile in Germany, very similar to the Netherlands in terms of religion, economy and population, the suicide rates went down by 10%.

In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been practiced since 1998, the suicide rate rose from 16.6 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 19.6 in 2019. 

In Washington State, where assisted suicide was legalized in 2009, the suicide rate has increased from 13.7 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 17.6 in 2019. 

It is true that the U.S. national suicide rate has increased from 12.3 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 14.2 in 2019, but the Oregon and Washington State suicide rates have increased faster than the national average.

I am not suggesting that there is a direct link between increased suicide rates and the legalization of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide. However, I am stating that Senator Kutcher was simply wrong.

There is no evidence that the suicide rate in jurisdictions that have legalized euthanasia and/or assisted suicide have lowered, while there is plenty of evidence that the suicide rates in these jurisdictions have increased.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.