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Why is the number of Canadian euthanasia deaths so high?

by | Feb 28, 2023

“With no safeguard but the personal discretion of providers.”

By Michael Cook

Euthanasia deaths in Canada have shot upwards. In 2015 there were none; in 2021, the last full year for which there are statistics, there were 10,064. On current trends another 10,000 died in 2022, bringing the total to 40,000.

Why? As Scott Kim, a bioethics researcher at the US National Institutes of Health, wrote in the Toronto Globe and Mail recently, it’s probably not because Canadian law is more permissive. Switzerland also has very permissive legislation, but the level of deaths is not nearly as high.

In Dr. Kim’s opinion, two currents of thought have combined: that euthanasia (medical assistance in dying or MAiD) is not a last resort but a normal therapeutic treatment and that doctors are actively promoting it. It is “a uniquely Canadian MAID ideology”.

“… it is striking that Canada’s main MAID-provider organization, the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers (CAMAP), has been promoting the practice of bringing up the procedure unsolicited. The organization, which received $3.3 million from the government to develop a curriculum for MAID providers, has set this out as not merely something permissible, but as a ‘professional obligation’. It is difficult to overemphasize how radical this position is.”

In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal for decades, MAiD is treated as a desperate last resort. In other jurisdictions, doctors are forbidden from raising the topic with their patients. Kim writes:

“Even when MAID is legal, it should be an exception to the practice of medicine, not something to be taken into its very bosom. There is a reason why all MAID laws regulate how to respond to requests, not how to promote it. But in Canada, aided by a flawed law, a MAID ideology is transforming the way medicine views itself. To talk of ideological capture in Canada is not hyperbole.”

Canadian doctors – or rather, some of them – believe that euthanasia is a “treatment option” and a “care option” that is “medically effective.” In a sense, it does – it gets rid of the pain – but at the cost of getting rid of the patient.

“This ideology has co-opted and transformed the country’s health care system into the most potent vehicle for MAID delivery in the world,” writes Kim, “with no safeguard but the personal discretion of providers.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at BioEdge and reposted with permission.

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