By Bridget Sielicki
A recent report released by Health Canada reveals that medically assisted deaths under the country’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law jumped by 31% last year.
According to the report, 13,241 people chose death by assisted suicide or euthanasia in 2022, accounting for 4.1% of all deaths. In total, 44,958 people have died since MAiD was first implemented in 2016. MAiD is not officially listed as a cause of death; if it were, one expert says it would be the fifth-leading cause of death in the country.
Cancer was the most commonly cited reason for assisted death, with 66% of deaths occurring in people suffering from the condition. Alarmingly, 3.5% of the assisted deaths were people whose natural death was not reasonably foreseeable — meaning they were not terminally ill. Additionally, nearly 20% of those who died did not first receive palliative care, a form of specialized medical care that focuses on the patient’s comfort and is often seen as an antidote to the idea of medically-assisted death.
Quebec led all provinces with the largest percentage increase, up 46% from 2021. Nearly 6.6% of all deaths in Quebec were due to MAiD; British Columbia closely followed with 5.5% of its population dying MAiD deaths.
Despite the significant rise, Federal Health Minister Mark Holland confirmed that the government will continue to support those who choose this form of death.
“Medical assistance in dying is a complex and deeply personal issue,” Holland said. “The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring our laws reflect Canadians’ needs, protect those who may be vulnerable and support their autonomy and freedom of choice.”
Cardus, a Canadian think tank, has expressed concern over the significant jump in numbers while highlighting that the country should be focusing on better palliative care, not making MAiD easier to access.
“The nearly 31% year-over-year growth in death by euthanasia and assisted suicide is alarming. The fact that more than 4% of all deaths in Canada in 2022 came at the hands of a medical professional should give us all pause,” noted Rebecca Vachon, Health Program Director at Cardus.
“It’s frightening to think of how these numbers will grow if the federal government pushes forward in its plan to expand eligibility for euthanasia and assisted suicide to those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness.”
Vachon continued: “When Canadians are facing death—and increasingly choosing it due to, according to the eligibility criteria of MAiD, unbearable suffering—it is unacceptable that euthanasia and assisted suicide continue to receive priority investments and increasing expansion while palliative care continues to be unavailable for many Canadians.”
Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action and is reposted with permission.