On 7 June 2021, a Health Canada official informed the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying of the Parliament of Canada, that there had been 7,595 reported cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2020.
This represents an increase of 35% from 2019 to 2020.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide accounted for 2.45% of all deaths in Canada in 2020.
In 2017 there 694 cases of suicide in Victoria. In 2020 there were 842. This is an increase of 21.2%
What has led to this startling increase?
From 19 June 2019 Victorians wishing to commit suicide could arrange to have a lethal dose of pentobarbital delivered to them by the Statewide Pharmacy Service based at the Alfred Hospital. All they needed was a VADSAP - a suicide permit - issued by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
The State of Victoria in Australia legalised both assistance to suicide by prescribing a lethal poison and euthanasia by lethal injection from 19 June 2019.
The third six monthly official report on this deadly practice, released on 3 March 2021, shows a rapid rise in the incident of euthanasia from 11 deaths by lethal injection in the six months January to June 2020 to 20 such deaths in the following six months July to December 2020 - an 81.8% increase or nearly double.
UN experts warn legalising euthanasia pressures people with disabilities and older persons to "end their lives prematurely"
UN experts have warned that "even when access to" legalised euthanasia and assistance to suicide "is restricted to those at the end of life or with a terminal illness, people with disabilities, older persons, and especially older persons with disabilities, may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely due to attitudinal barriers as well as the lack of appropriate services and support."
Reported deaths by euthanasia in Ontario jumped by one third (32.95%) from 1789 in 2019 to 2378 in 2020 according to statistics published by the Office of the Chief Coroner.
Associate Professor Odette Spruijt, a palliative medicine practitioner of almost 30 years experience, has urged Tasmanians to "follow a path that holds least risk for social harm" and avoid "the cultural normalization of the practice of the intentional termination of life by assisting a person to suicide or giving a lethal drug".
In my consultative practice at a major hospital in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, I reviewed a man with a history of chronic depression and now recurrent bowel cancer, who on hearing of the return of his cancer, attempted suicide. He survived this attempt and was reviewed by a psychiatry registrar and consultant while still an inpatient. Their clinical note suggested that perhaps VAD [assistance to suicide] should be offered to him.
This is a significant departure from the established practice of care for patients with depressive illness who are suicidal.