According to a report from Health Canada, euthanasia, referred to by the government as “medical assistance in dying,” accounted for 3.3% of all deaths in the country last year.
The 3.3% figure represents the euthanization of 10,064 people in 2021. The average age of those euthanized was 76.3 years old, with a slightly larger proportion of men (52.3%) than women (47.7%) choosing to accept medical assistance in dying (MAID).
Notably, the number of people requesting and receiving MAID has been steadily rising year over year.
In 2018, 4,480 people received MAID. In 2019, 5,661 received MAID. In 2020, 7,630 people received MAID. And in 2021, 10,064 people received MAID.
Since MAID was made legal in 2016, 31,664 Canadians have been euthanized.
As it stands, there are several criteria that one must meet to receive MAID, and mental illness currently is not being considered as the sole reason for receiving MAID. However, this will change next year.
According to Health Canada, the following criteria must be met:
- Request MAID voluntarily (self-request only)
- 18 years of age or older
- Capacity to make health care decisions
- Must provide informed consent
- Eligible for publicly funded health care services in Canada
- Diagnosed with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” where a person must meet all of the following criteria:
- serious and incurable illness, disease or disability
- advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,
- experiencing enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable
Beginning on March 17, 2023, those with a mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition will be able to request and receive MAID, providing they meet all other criteria.
While most who request MAID are elderly, it’s been revealed that many impoverished people, who feel they have no way out of their circumstances, have also requested and been approved for MAID.
University of Toronto Law professor Trudo Lemmens has noted many such instances that were documented during an organized session regarding MAID in Canada.
“One of the concrete examples that featured prominently was the case of a women living in poverty who struggled with severe chemical sensitivity and had desperately been trying to obtain social housing adjusted to her medical needs,” writes Lemmens. “CTV reported how Toronto physicians ended her life with MAID, at her request. CTV also reported on the case of another woman in a similar situation who was approved for MAID, following a MAID assessment which, in her words, “focused [little] on what services I had, what I needed to achieve some level of normal. Nothing was offered in terms of support.” Fortunately, private charitable fundraising permitted her to move into temporary adjusted housing and to postpone the ‘MAID procedure.'”
“Finally, a third report of June 2022 revealed how a woman in her 30s, suffering from a rare but not terminal condition, applied to the British Columbia Fraser Health Authority for MAID in the hope it would lead to more medical or social supports. While she was offered MAID, no additional support of specialized health care was allegedly made available or promised.”
While some believe that the proportion of deaths stemming from MAID will continue to rise until it hits roughly 5% of all deaths — as is the case in other countries — the decision to include mental illness as a reason one might receive MAID has many critics concerned.
“It is rising remarkably fast,” Lemmens said of the uptick in MAID requests.