A new report finds that 13,241 people died under the country's MAiD programme
Last year 4.1% of all deaths in Canada were due to MAiD (medical assistance in dying), according to the country’s health ministry. This amounts to a total of 13,241 people who died under Canada’s MAiD programme in 2022, marking a 31% rise on the previous year.
These findings provide succour to claims made by MAiD critics that the programme has become too permissive. Federal guidelines stipulate that clients must have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, make a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that is not the result of outside pressure or influence, and give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying.
But towards the end of last year, the programme was criticised for allegedly driving citizens into assisted suicide on the grounds of poverty or lack of healthcare. Stories included two separate cases of cash-strapped women suffering from chronic health conditions who successfully applied to end their lives. Elsewhere, four Canadian military veterans were allegedly “pressured” to opt for medically-assisted death by a now-suspended Veterans Affairs Canada caseworker.
Health Canada’s fourth annual report on MAiD shows a staggering rise in deaths. Since the programme was launched in 2016, there has been a thirteenfold increase. The most cited underlying medical conditions for choosing MAiD included cancer (63%) as well as various respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological conditions. But in 463 MAiD cases, the person’s natural death was not reasonably foreseeable, up from 221 individuals in 2021.
There was also a 27% rise in the number of written requests for MAiD in 2022 (16,104) since 2021, 560 of which were deemed ineligible. The most commonly cited sources of suffering by people requesting MAiD were the loss of ability to engage in meaningful activities (86.3%), followed by loss of ability to perform activities of daily living (81.9%) and inadequate control of pain, or concern about controlling pain (59.2%).
Canada legalised euthanasia in 2016, but the remit of MAiD has expanded in recent years. In 2021, the Canadian parliament passed Bill C-7, a law which repealed a requirement that only those suffering from a terminal illness whose natural death was “reasonably foreseeable” could request euthanasia. Next March, the programme will again be expanded further to include anyone whose sole underlying issue is a mental illness.
While advocates believe this move is an important step in recognising the suffering wrought by mental illness, Conservative politicians have criticised it as promoting a “culture of death”. “Those suffering from mental disorders, including depression, deserve mental health and social support and counselling,” said Conservative MP Ed Fast, who tabled a bill against MAiD’s expansion. “They need to find some joy and some meaning in life.”
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has backed Fast’s bill, adding that he would repeal the expansion of MAiD to those with a mental illness if he became prime minister.