Medical assistance in dying granted to 10,000 Canadians in 2021

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According to the third annual federal report on medical assistance in dying (MAD), more and more Canadians are ending their lives with medically assisted death. Data shows 10,064 people died in 2021 with medical assistance, an increase of 32% compared to 2020.

The report says 3.3% of all deaths in Canada in 2021 were assisted deaths. Provincially, the rate was higher in provinces such as Quebec, at 4.7%, and British Columbia, at 4.8%.

“It’s growing remarkably rapidly,” Trudo Lemmens, a University of Toronto law professor who was a member of the Council of Canadian Academies’ expert panel on medical assistance in dying, wrote in an email to CTV News. He noted that parts of the country quickly matched or exceeded rates in Belgium and the Netherlands, where the practice has been in place for more than two decades.

Proponents say that’s not surprising because Canadians are growing more comfortable with MAID and some expect the rate hike to level off.

“The … expectation has always been that (the rate) will be around four to five percent, (like in) Europe. We’ll probably end up sawing at about the same rate,” said Dr Jean Marmoreo, family physician and MAID provider in Toronto.

The report uses data collected from records submitted by physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists across the country involving written requests for MAID.

Among the discoveries:

  • All provinces experienced increases in MAID deaths, ranging from 1.2% (Newfoundland and Labrador) to a high of 4.8% (British Columbia);
  • More men (52.3%) than women (47.7%) received MAID;
  • The average age was 76.3 years;
  • Sixty-five percent of those receiving assisted death had cancer. Heart disease or stroke were cited in 19% of cases, followed by chronic lung disease (12%) and neurological conditions such as ALS (12%);
  • Just over 2% of assisted deaths were offered to a new group of patients: those who had chronic conditions but did not die from their condition, with new legislation in 2021 allowing for expanded access to MAID.

Documents show that 81% of written requests for MAID were approved.

Thirteen percent of patients died before MAID could be provided, and nearly two percent withdrew their request before the procedure was offered.

Four percent of people who made written requests for medical assistance were turned down. The report says some were deemed ineligible because assessors believed the patient was not voluntarily applying for MAID. The majority of requests were denied because the patients were deemed mentally incapable of making the decision.

But other countries with long-established programs reject far more assisted death applications, Lemmens said, citing data that shows 12 to 16 percent of applicants in the Netherlands are told no.

“This … may be an indication that the restrictions (in my view, the safeguards) are weaker here than in the most liberal euthanasia regimes,” he wrote in his email to CTV News. .

But Marmoreo, which has been offering MAID since 2016, sees Canada’s low rejection rate differently.

“It’s more about the good cases being put forward,” she said.

“We have a really good screening process right from the start. So before people even make a formal request for assisted dying, they have a lot of information given to them by admissions…here’s what who is involved in requesting assisted dying, you must meet these eligibility criteria.”

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