New Canadian data shows increase in euthanasia deaths

The Canadian government has just released the fourth interim report covering euthanasia deaths from 1 Jan 2018-31 Oct 2018.

Like earlier interim reports it does not include any data from the Northwest Territories, Yukon or Nunavut as the numbers are apparently below the threshold for privacy (likely fewer than 7 cases each in each reporting period).

More significantly there is no data included from Quebec for 1 April-31 Oct 2018.

For Canada as a whole (excluding Quebec, Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut) the monthly number of cases of euthanasia increased by 60% from 163 in 2017 to 261 in Jan-Oct 2018.

This report misleadingly claims that euthanasia deaths only account for 1.12% of all deaths in Canada in the 10 months from Jan-Oct 2018. It appears to have derived this figure by including deaths in Quebec in the denominator when the number of euthanasia deaths reported for this period (2614) excludes euthanasia deaths in Quebec.

The correct figure based on the reported data is 1.47%.

This aligns with data for 2018, including Quebec, given by Dr Jocelyn Downie in a lecture to the Royal Society of Canada on 15 March 2019 suggesting that euthanasia deaths accounted for 1.5% of all deaths in Canada in 2018.

Euthanasia deaths as a percentage of all deaths varies by province with British Columbia (2.37% of all deaths) nearly three times as deadly as Saskatchewan (0.84% of all deaths).

Other provincial rates are: Quebec 1.54% [Jan-Mar 2018]; Ontario 1.39%; Manitoba 1.25%; Alberta 1.18% and the Atlantic provinces (Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick) 0.98%. 

One fact the fourth interim report did get right is what is really involved in what the Canadians euphemistically call MAID - medical assistance in dying:MAID is "an exception to the criminal laws that prohibit the intentional termination of a person’s life."

MAID includes both euthanasia and assisted suicide. As of October 2018 there have only been six cases of assisted suicide under the Canadian law compared to 6743 cases of euthanasia.

This preference for euthanasia over assisted suicide has implications for Victoria (Australia) where both assisted suicide and euthanasia will be legal from 19 June 2019. While euthanasia is only permitted when a person is unable to physically self-administer or to digest the prescribed lethal substance this only requires one doctor to submit a form [Regulation 8 (b)] to the Secretary for Health making this assertion. 


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