Allegations mislead about Canada’s medical assistance in dying law

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Social media posts claim that euthanasia is the sixth leading cause of death in Canada and is used to “kill the poor”. It is misleading; Canada offers medical assistance in dying (MAID), but the national statistics agency does not consider it an official cause of death, and most cases involve people with serious underlying health conditions.

“In Canada, legalized euthanasia (MAID) has become the sixth leading cause of death,” says a August 13, 2022 Tweeter with thousands of interactions.

A similar claim was made in a video with tens of thousands of views on Facebook and instagramwhich circulated in August with a text saying that Canada “literally kills the poor”.

Screenshot of a tweet from August 30, 2022

The posts spread like media reports revealed a Canadian Forces veteran seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury was “inappropriately” offered physician-assisted dying, which investigation.

The federal government said the MAID program – adopted for the first time 2016 following a 2015 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada — is for people with a “serious and irremediable condition.” Mental illnesses are currently excludedpatients must be at least 18 years old and two independent healthcare professionals must approve the request after receiving informed consent.

Bill C-7, which received royal assent in March 2021, expanded access to MAID by repealing an eligibility provision that required “a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable.” This led to an influx of participants; the programs third annual report found “10,064 MAID services reported in Canada, representing 3.3% of all deaths in Canada” in 2021.

But claims that MAID is the sixth leading cause of death are misleading, according to Statistics Canada.

“Medical assistance in dying is recognized as the mode of death and not the cause of death,” Jadyn Yelle, spokeswoman for the national statistics agency, said in an email.

She said the illness, disease or disability that prompted the request for MAID “is recognized as the underlying cause of death and tabulated for statistical purposes.”

“As such, it is inappropriate to place it among the leading causes of death,” she said.

The latest data from Statistics Canada shows that in 2020, the leading cause of death was malignant neoplasms (cancerous tumors) with 80,973 deaths. The sixth leading cause of death was chronic lower respiratory diseases with 11,722 deaths.

The program is controversial

Jennifer Chandlerassociate dean of research at the University of Ottawa’s faculty of law, said the claim that MAID is used to kill poor people is “a very misleading and inflammatory statement.”

The program has caused controversy in the past. In April 2022, a gust news cover followed the case of a chemical-sensitive woman who sought MAID after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain affordable housing did not worsen her condition.

Chandler said the government had two prongs approach at MAID, with one set of conditions for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable and one for those whose natural death is not, continues to stimulate debate between those who support the expansion of MAID and those who fear that it poses a risk to people with disabilities.

“One suggests that social supports are inadequate, and people with disabilities would not seek MAID if they had better social supports (e.g., different housing or long-term care arrangements),” he said. she stated, while the other “suggests that there are people with disabilities for whom social supports of any type cannot adequately address their suffering, and they should have the choice of MAID.”

However, Chandler said safeguards exist for those whose conditions are not life-threatening. For example, Canadians seeking MAID can be offered “counselling services, mental health and disability supports, community services and palliative care,” according to a government. Web page.

Who applies for MAID?

Vast Majority of Canadians Receiving MAID Have Serious Underlying Health Conditions, Program’s Third Annual Report Shows report.

In 2021, cancer was the most frequently cited underlying medical condition (65.6%), followed by cardiovascular diseases (18.7%), chronic respiratory diseases (12.4%) and neurological diseases (12 .4%). The average MAID recipient was 76.3 years old.

According to the report, only 219 people, or 2.2% of all MAID cases, were people whose natural death was not reasonably foreseeable. Nearly half of them cited underlying neurological conditions.

The government is studying “how MAID on the basis of mental illness can be provided safely”, with the goal of expanding access by March 17, 2023. To May 2022 report offered recommendations, but there were concerns that some provisions do not adequately protect people with mental illnesses.

AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims circulating in Canada here.

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