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Canada’s Assisted Dying law–one year later

by | Jun 21, 2017

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition [EPC]

One year after the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide, Canada has become the prime example of how legalizing assisted dying cannot be controlled and why these laws are naturally expansive. Society needs policies that encourage caring and not killing.

On June 17, 2016, Canada’s Senate passed euthanasia bill (C-14) in time for their summer break. Even though some groups claimed victory based on the amendments to C-14, EPC was concerned by the fact that the most dangerous language in C-14 remained intact.

Bill C-14 employs poorly defined language that (in my opinion) is designed to enable expansion of Canada’s euthanasia law.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition continues to oppose euthanasia.

  • EPC has successfully produced the Euthanasia Deception documentary focusing on personal stories by people with direct experience with euthanasia,
  • EPC has successfully distributed the Caring Not Killing pamphlet that explains why euthanasia and assisted suicide are not necessary and what you can do to make a difference,
  • EPC is working with the Compassionate Community Care service that offers advice and direction for family and friends of people who are considering dying by assisted death or people facing difficult end-of-life decisions. Contact CCC at: 1-855-675-8749.

More people are dying by euthanasia than projected.

Even though we are well into 2017, an interim report issued in April indicates that in 2016 there were 970 reported assisted deaths in Canada.

Other than Québec, where there were 463 deaths in the full year, the remaining 507 reported deaths occurred in 6.5 months (June 17 – Dec 31). The percentage of assisted deaths is highest in British Columbia, where there were 188 assisted deaths, where they have two euthanasia clinics, as compared to 189 assisted deaths in Ontario.

The 970 reported assisted deaths represented 0.6% of all deaths in Canada.

There may be more assisted deaths. According to the report from Health Canada, not every province has a legal requirement to report assisted deaths . Nunavut and the Yukon territories did not submit information based on privacy concerns and the small number of assisted deaths.

An April 20 CBC news report stated that there were more than 1,324 assisted deaths since legalization.

Compared to Belgium, the number of deaths is high. There were 235 reported assisted deaths in the first full year in Belgium (2003), 349 in its second full year, and 393 in its third full year after legalization. Currently Belgium is approximately 1/3 of Canada’s population.

In 2015, there were 2,021 reported Belgian assisted deaths, up from 1,924 reported assisted deaths in 2014. A study published in the March 2015 New England Journal of Medicine –“Recent Trends in Euthanasia and Other End-of-Life Practices in Belgium” –found that more than 40% of the assisted deaths were not reported in 2013.

Conscience rights for medical professionals are not protected.

Moreover Bill C-14 did not protect conscience rights for medical professionals. The Coalition for HealthCare and Conscience launched a legal challenge to the Ontario College of Physicians policy that forces physicians, who oppose killing, to “effectively refer” their patients to a physician who will kill. Effective referral is defined as referral for the purpose of the act. The court case was heard June 13 – 15 in an Ontario court. Some physicians will leave Ontario if they are forced to participate in euthanasia.

At the same time, the Québec government has pressured palliative care units to participate in euthanasia.

Conscience rights are recognized in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom but the euthanasia lobby claims that patients have a “right to access” euthanasia and thus claim that conscience rights must be limited.

Expansion of euthanasia law.

Before the ink was dry, the first court case was launched to expand Bill C-14. Recently two people from Montreal launched a similar court case to expand Canada’s euthanasia law to people who are not terminally ill.

Canada’s federal government did not waste time to announce that they were conducting research into expanding euthanasia to people with dementia, who stated in their advanced directive that they wanted to die by euthanasia, children, and people with psychological suffering alone.

Abuse of the law.

The law requires the physician, or nurse practitioner, who lethally injects their patient to self-report the act. Self-reporting systems enables those who lethally inject their patients in questionable circumstances to cover-up abuse of the law.

In late September 2016, Dr Will Johnston reported on two British Columbia deaths that appear to abuse the euthanasia law. In November I was contacted by a man who stated that his Aunt, who died by euthanasia, may only have had a bladder infection.

According to the Québec government first year report 14% of the assisted deaths did not comply with the law.

Further to that, a Canadian bioethicist is already promoting euthanasia/organ donation, a study was published explaining that up to 138 million dollars can be saved by euthanasia.

Once society crosses the line and decides that it is acceptable to kill people, the only remaining question is who will be killed.

Meanwhile a Toronto study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that requests for euthanasia were based on existential distress and not uncontrolled pain.

The euthanasia debate needs to go beyond theory and buzz words and become based on human reality. People usually ask for euthanasia when they are emotionally and/or psychologically distraught by their medical or personal situation. Therefore euthanasia becomes an abandonment of people at the most vulnerable time of their life.

The answer to euthanasia is to care for people and not to kill people.

Categories: Canada Euthanasia