The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)
The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com) The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

Medically assisted deaths rising as Canadians grow more comfortable with the idea

7,595 Canadians received medically assisted deaths in 2020

Almost 7,600 Canadians received medical assistance to end their lives last year, continuing a trend of steady annual increases in cases since the procedure was legalized in 2016.

Health Canada official Abby Hoffman provided the lastest statistics Monday at a meeting of the newly launched joint parliamentary committee that is reviewing Canada’s assisted dying regime.

She says 7,595 Canadians received medically assisted deaths in 2020.

That’s up 17 per cent from 5.631 assisted deaths in 2019, a number which was itself a 26 per cent increase over the previous year.

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.

But she says the experience in other countries with relatively permissive assisted dying regimes, like the Benelux countries, suggests it will be a small uptick.

Overall, Hoffman says assisted deaths made up just 2.5 per cent of all deaths in the country last year, up from two per cent in 2019.

By comparison, she says assisted deaths make up 4.1 per cent of all deaths in the Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

She says cancer was the most commonly cited illness associated with requests for assisted dying in Canada last year, while the most commonly cited manifestations of suffering were the inability to engage in meaningful activities or perform activities of daily living.

The majority of applicants for assisted dying had received or had access to palliative care but felt their own suffering could not be relieved by that or other medical interventions, she says.

“Increased awareness and greater acceptance by Canadians of MAID as an end-of-life option has resulted in steady growth in MAID since 2016,” Hoffman told the special committee of MPs and senators.

An almost equal number of men and women requested assisted deaths, which Hoffman said were provided roughly equally in urban and rural areas, proportional to their populations.

Last year, she said 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.

For all that Canadians are increasingly taking the opportunity to end intolerable suffering with medical assistance, Hoffman said there remains only a small number of health care practitioners who provide the procedure: just 1,345 last year.

The joint committee is supposed to examine a number of contentious issues, including whether assisted dying should be expanded to include mature minors and advance requests.

It is also to examine the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities. It is to report back with any recommended changes to the law by next April.

Hoffman acknowledged Monday that the data the government has collected so far, based on reports filed by the providers of assisted death, is very general.

As part of the recently passed legislation, the government will now have to provide a more detailed demographic breakdown of who is requesting and receiving assisted dying and why.

Among other things, it is required to collect data that can be used to determine if there is “the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics.”

— Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Tory senators hold up start of parliamentary review of assisted dying law

assisted dying

Just Posted

Some algae is visible at the swimming ponds at Millennium Park. Photo: Betsy Kline
City of Castlegar says Millennium Ponds safe, in spite of algae

Water samples are regularly sent to Interior Health

Black Press file photo
City of Castlegar plans to offer dumpster for small amounts of summer garbage

Bear Smart initiative looking to reduce wildlife conflict

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read