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

Chemainus Secondary School 2021 graduate Nina Bumstead. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Grad ceremony proceeds, with a twist

Red carpet outside works out well for Chemainus Secondary’s Class of 2021

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

Chemainus street signs now contain Hul’qumi’num translations, like this one at the corner of Willow and Legion Streets. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Street signs go up in the Hul’qumi’num language

Chemainus intersections feature direct translations

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

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

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Most Read