More than 13,200 Canadians died by assisted suicide in 2022 — 30% more than previous year

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Seven years after euthanasia became legal in Canada, the number of Canadians dying by a doctor-assisted death continues to mount.

In 2022, 13,241 people died under Canada’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) provisions, bringing the total number of MAID deaths in Canada since 2016 to 44,958, according to Health Canada’s fourth annual report on MAID deaths.

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The total number of assisted suicide deaths rose by 31.2 per cent in 2022 over 2021, an annual growth rate that’s held steady since 2019.

In all, MAID deaths accounted for 4.1 per cent of all deaths in Canada in 2022.

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The most cited underlying medical conditions for choosing MAID included cancer (63 per cent), followed by congestive heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions (such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and ALS.

In 463 cases — 3.5 per cent of the total MAID deaths in 2022 — the person’s natural death was not reasonably foreseeable.

The latest numbers were published Tuesday amid controversy over the expansion of MAID to those whose sole underlying illness is a mental illness, an extension of Canada’s MAID law due to take effect next March.

On one side, proponents say those with mental illness shouldn’t be discriminated against, or their suffering downplayed; others claim people with mental illness are uniquely vulnerable to the accessibility of assisted suicide.

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Last week, federal MPs voted against Conservative MP Ed Fast’s private member’s bill that would have rendered people suffering solely from a mental illness ineligible for MAID.

According to the latest annual report, the average age of those who died by MAID in 2022 was 77. Most cited not being able to engage meaningfully in life or inadequate pain control as their main reason for requesting an assisted death.

There were 16,104 written requests for MAID in 2022, up 27 per cent over 2021. Of the roughly 3,000 requests that did not end in MAID, just over 2,000 died before they could receive MAID. Others changed their minds; 560 were deemed ineligible.

“Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a complex and deeply personal issue,” Federal Health Minister Mark Holland said in a minister’s message in the report.

“The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring our laws reflect Canadians’ needs, protect those who may be vulnerable and support their autonomy and freedom of choice.”

Among the reports other findings, Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest percentage year over year increases in MAID deaths, followed by Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan had lower growth rates.

“A request for MAID must be made voluntarily and not as a result of any external pressure,” the annual report reads.

But critics have argued that those living without necessary medical or disability supports are being driven to choose MAID.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has promised to repeal the expansion of MAID to those with a metal illness, should he become prime minister.

National Post

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