According to the official report of the Canadian Ministry of Health, more than 10,000 citizens in that country died of euthanasia in 2021. Ten times more than five years ago.
The number grew by 32 percent in just one year, confirming that once introduced, euthanasia and the so-called assisted suicide become accepted social norms, almost duties, for those who are suffering or have lost the will to live.
According to the report, 36 percent of those who were euthanized last year considered themselves a burden to family and friends, while more than 1,700 suffered from isolation and loneliness. This means that they were motivated to end their lives more by social and psychological causes than by illness. Like, sadly, and resoundingly, French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (1930-2022), who recently ended his life this way.
Moreover, the details of the document released by the Canadian ministry are revealing: they show what could happen in any other country if certain practices were legalized.
Canada introduced euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016. Initially, access was reserved only for the terminally ill, but in 2019 the Superior Court of Quebec ruled the limit unconstitutional and, as a result, in 2021 the federal government extended what was euphemistically called “medical assistance in dying” to non-terminally ill patients. The 2021 legislation also removed some safeguards, such as the ten-day waiting period for evaluation before the procedure and the requirement to offer the palliative care alternative. From next year it will also extend “good death” onto patients suffering solely from mental illness. But a seriously compassionate country should offer more than a lethal injection to the sick and lonely. Instead, the report says, 31,664 people have been killed in this way since the law was introduced in 2016.
These figures, compared to those of last year (10,064), indicate an increase of precisely ten times from 2016 (1,018) and amount to 3.3 percent of all deaths recorded in Canada in 2021. The figure varies by geographic area, but in British Columbia nearly one in twenty deaths now occurs through euthanasia.
Assisted suicide allowed by law occurs through self-administration of lethal drugs, but it is rare practice: only seven cases in 2021. Instead, almost all patients are killed directly by a doctor or nurse. They are both men (52.3%) and women, and the average age is 76.3 years: 77 for women and 75.6 for men.
The extension of euthanasia to the non-terminally ill under the 2021 law allows it if the sufferers have an illness defined as “incurable” or if they are disabled and suffer as much psychologically as physically. The 219 people who were euthanized last year were not terminally ill. Since this has only been possible since June of that year, the data in the report refer to only one half of the year, so it is easy to predict that the cases will double, at the very least.
The average age of non-terminal patients who have resorted to euthanasia is 70.1 years, which is more than six years lower than the average age of terminal patients. Of these deaths, 37 percent involved people between the ages of 18 and 64, while for the terminally ill the figure is much lower, less than half (16.7 percent). That is, the more euthanasia is liberalized, the younger its victims are.
The most common cause of distress, for both terminal and non-terminal patients, is the loss of the ability to engage in meaningful activities (86.3%). More than 3,500 of them reported feeling burdened by family, friends or caregivers, and (as mentioned) more than 1,700 suffered from loneliness and isolation.
Only 4 percent of requests for assisted dying were denied because they did not meet the necessary criteria, while about 2 percent of people who initially requested it later changed their minds or simply passed away earlier from natural causes.
The most common disease among the terminally ill is cancer (65.6 percent), while among the non-terminally ill are neurological diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Canada’s experience, though brief, still confirms that once euthanasia or “assisted suicide” is introduced, the limits initially set are instead slowly removed, the number of victims rises and turning back is difficult. The same happened in Belgium and the Netherlands.