Canadian Euthanasia deaths increased by almost 35% in 2020

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Joan Bryden reported for the Canadian Press on June 8, 2021 that Health Canada official Abby Hoffman told the new parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying that there were 7,595 reported euthanasia (MAiD—Medical Assistance in Dying) deaths in Canada in 2020 representing a 17% increase from 5,631 in 2019.

Hoffman was wrong. 7,595 reported euthanasia deaths in 2020 is almost a 35% increase from the 5,631 in 2019. 7,595 reported MAiD deaths represents approximately 2.5% of all deaths.

Hoffman correctly stated that the 5,631 MAiD deaths reported in 2019 was a 26% from 4,467 in 2018.

According to the Health Canada data, as of December 31, 2020 there were 21,541 reported euthanasia (MAiD) deaths in Canada since legalization.

Bryden also reported Hoffman to say that last year

21 per cent of 9,300 written requests for assisted dying were not carried out, either because the requesters died before being assessed, were deemed ineligible or withdrew their requests. Of the latter, she said 50 changed their minds immediately before they were to receive the procedure.

Hoffman acknowledged that the data collected by the government is very general. But she stated that Bill C-7, which became law on March 17, 2021,  requires Health Canada to collect more data concerning “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”

Bill C-7 was introduced in February 2020 as the government’s response to the Quebec Superior Court’s Truchon decisionBill C-7 went much further than what Truchon required.

Bryden also reported that Justice official Joanne Klineberg says the number of cases will likely increase again as a result of recently passed legislation that expands access to assisted dying to people who are not nearing the natural end of their lives.

Ontario MAiD deaths

The Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner releases data on a monthly basis. 

The data released in January 2021 by the Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner indicated that there were 2,378 reported MAiD deaths in Ontario in 2020, up by 33% from the 2019 figure of 1,789. Ontario represents 39% of Canada’s total population.

Ontario’s  April 2021 (MAiD) euthanasia data indicated that even though Ontario was under a strict COVID-19 “lock-down” that April 2021 had the highest number of euthanasia deaths (241) since legalization. Altogether,  there  were 853 reported assisted deaths in the first four months of 2021.