Friday, November 10, 2023

Canada: Women, the lonely, and people with disabilities, at risk to euthanasia

This article was recently published by the Australian Care Alliance.
Article: Health Canada reports 13,241 assisted deaths in 2022 representing 4.1% of all deaths (Link).
In October 2023 the Fourth Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada was published. It stated that there had been 13,241 reported cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2022, bringing the total of such deaths since legalisation to 44,958.
The number of cases each year has more than quadrupled (466%) in 6 years from 2,838 in 2017, the first full year of legalisation, to 13,241 in 2022 with annual increases of 57.8% (2018); 26.4% (2019) 34.2% (2020); 32.4% (2021) and 31.2% (2022).
“Fewer than seven” cases of assisted suicide have occurred each year since 2019. Canadian practice overwhelming uses euthanasia. The 2019 report stated that: “providers are less comfortable with self-administration [assisted suicide] due to concerns around the ability of the patient to effectively self-administer the series of medications, and the complications that may ensue”.
In 2022 euthanasia and assisted suicide accounted for 4.1% of all deaths in Canada. Provincial rates of euthanasia are highest in Quebec - 6.6% in 2022 and British Columbia - 5.5% in 2022.
Underlying conditions

Very limited data is provided on the “main condition” for which euthanasia is performed.
In 2022, for 8.3% of cases the “main condition” is reported as “multiple comorbidities” and a further 14.9% as “other conditions” - that is other than cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological or organ failure. For these two categories combined, 25% of cases involved “frailty” and 11.9% involved diabetes. Other conditions cited included vision or hearing loss, tendency to falls; and difficulty swallowing. For women these two categories now account for nearly one out of three (29.1%) deaths by euthanasia.
The 2021 report comments “Multiple comorbidities and other conditions encompassed a wide range of diseases or conditions, including frailty, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis”. Note that these are not terminal conditions.
In only 161 cases in 2022 did the clinician administering euthanasia give their specialty as oncology. Additionally, 806 cases involved some consultation with an oncologist. This means that in 2022, at least 7,649 Canadians were euthanized on the basis that they had cancer with no discussion with an oncologist about this course of action. This represents 90.6 % of cases of euthanasia for cancer.
The majority (67.7%) of those administering euthanasia were primarily engaged in family medicine.

The 2022 report notes that the second opinion on eligibility was given by a nurse practitioner in 7.3% of cases.

“Death be reasonably foreseeable” - no longer required

The Canadian law initially required that “death be reasonably foreseeable”. The decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in AB v Attorney General of Canada delivered on 19 June 2017, in paragraph 81, interpreted this requirement as not requiring any connection whatsoever between the underlying conditions for which euthanasia is sought and the reasonable foreseeability of death – which can be based simply on advanced age. The woman in this case was 79 years old.

On 11 September 2019, the Quebec Superior Court, in the case of Truchon c. Procureur général du Canada, invalidated the relevant provisions in the Canadian law which limited euthanasia to cases where “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” and the Quebec law which required that the person be “at the end of life”. The effect of this decision was suspended for six months.

The Canadian Government introduced Bill C-7 into the House of Commons in February 2020 to give statutory effect to the decision. The Bill became law from 21 March 2021 opening the way for euthanasia to be given to people with chronic, non-terminal conditions, including people with a disability.

463 such cases were reported for 2022. -59% of these involving the euthanasia of a woman whose death was not reasonably foreseeable.
In Ontario in 2022, 121 out of 3934 (3.1%) euthanasia cases involved a person whose natural death was not reasonably foreseeable.
Short time between initial request and euthanasia being performed

Section 241.2 (3) (g) of the Canadian Criminal Code required a physician to “ensure that there are at least 10 clear days between the day on which the request was signed by or on behalf of the person and the day on which the medical assistance in dying is provided or — if they and the other medical practitioner or nurse practitioner referred to in paragraph (e) are both of the opinion that the person’s death, or the loss of their capacity to provide informed consent, is imminent — any shorter period that the first medical practitioner or nurse practitioner considers appropriate in the circumstance”.

Of the 7,384 people killed by euthanasia in Canada in 2020 for whom data is available on the length of time between first request and when euthanasia was administered some 34.3% or 2,532 people were euthanased in less than 10 days of first requesting it.
For 905 of these people the only justification given for the haste with which euthanasia was performed was that loss of capacity to consent was imminent. This raises real questions about the validity of the original request. If a person is on the verge of losing capacity what degree of certainty can there be that the person currently has full capacity?
In the period April 2021 to March 2022 in Quebec, 50% of people were euthanized less than 10 days after making a request. However, only 13% of people had a prognosis of less than 2 weeks to live.
Under the revised law from 21 March 2021 there is no longer any required waiting period for any person whose death is said to be “reasonably foreseeable”. Same day request and lethal injection is acceptable.
In other cases, a 90 day waiting period is specified but if the two assessing practitioners think that loss of decision making capacity is imminent this can be waived entirely.

Advanced directive

Euthanasia can now (since 21 March 2021) be provided on the basis of an advanced directive to persons who have lost decision making capacity. This is not supposed to be done if the person resists or refuses by "words, sounds or gestures".
However, this requirement is undermined by a provision that "involuntary words, sounds or gestures made in response to contact do not constitute a demonstration of refusal or resistance". How do we know they are "involuntary"?
In Ontario in 2022, 190 out of 3934 (4.83%) involved euthanasia of a person who at the time they were killed was incapable of giving consent.

Reasons for requesting euthanasia

The 2022 annual report states that loss of ability to engage in meaningful life activities (86.3%) followed closely by loss of ability to perform activities of daily living (81.9%) were the most common reasons for a euthanasia request.

Inadequate control of pain, or concern about it (59.2%) ranked much lower.

Disturbingly 35.3% reported as a reason for their euthanasia request “Perceived burden on family, friends or caregivers” and 17.1% reported “Isolation or loneliness”.
So in 2022 some 2,294 Canadians were given a lethal injection because they were lonely: Why didn't the doctor or nurse practitioner just have a cup of tea and a chat with them instead of giving them a lethal injection?
For Quebec, between April 2021 and March 2022, 1700 (47%) of people euthanased gave a reason as “Perceived burden on family, friends or caregivers” and 824 (23%) of people reported “isolation or loneliness” as a reason.

Needed disability services and palliative care not provided
In 2022 there were 328 cases where palliative care was not accessible if needed – an increase of 63% from 2021 when cases had already increased by 60% from the 126 cases in 2020.
The 2021 report notes even where palliative care was being accessed or was available “this result does not offer insight into the adequacy or quality of the palliative care services that were available or provided”.
In 2022 there were 568 cases where disability support services were needed but NOT received (up from 332 in 2020 – an increase of 71%). In 2021 this included 12 of the 219 people whose deaths were “not reasonably foreseeable”.
The 2020 report stated that “Disability support services could include but are not limited to assistive technologies, adaptive equipment, rehabilitation services, personal care services and disability based income supplements.” The 2021 report admits that, even for those who were reported as having received disability support services, the data “does not provide insight into the adequacy of the services offered”.

Denied assisted living but offered assisted suicide

Roger Foley, who has a crippling brain disease, has been seeking support to live at home. He is currently in an Ontario hospital that is threatening to start charging him $1,800 a day. The hospital has told Roger that his other option is euthanasia or assisted suicide under Canada’s medical assistance in dying law.

Candice Lewis: pressure for euthanasia based on disability

Candice Lewis (right)
Candice Lewis was a 25 year old Canadian woman who happened to have cerebral palsy.

In September 2016 Candice went to the emergency room at in Newfoundland after having seizures.
The doctor told her she was very sick and likely to die soon. He offered her assisted suicide. The doctor also proposed assisted suicide for Candice to her mother Sheila Elson.

This offer was repeated despite both Candice and her mother making it clear that this was not an option Candice would consider. The doctor told Sheila she was being selfish by not encouraging her daughter to choose assisted suicide.
Candice describes how bad it made her feel that a doctor was offering her assisted suicide.

More than twelve months later Candice had recovered well and her health was much improved. Candice wasn’t having any seizures, was now able to feed herself, walk with assistance, use her iPad. She was more alert, energetic and communicative. She was able to walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding in August 2017. She was doing what she loved most, painting and being with her family.

Candice and her mother Sheila were interviewed by Kevin Dunn, who is produced a film on euthanasia and assisted suicide called Fatal Flaws for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. The film of the interview can be viewed here.

Candice has since passed away from natural causes.

There are several take home lessons from Candice’s experience:
  • Doctors can get the prognosis wrong. Candice was told she was dying but is flourishing twelve months later. A wrong prognosis can lead to assisted suicide or euthanasia. A life can be thrown away needlessly;
  • People with a disability already suffer discrimination in health care. When assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, people with a disability are more at risk of being offered death as a solution because doctors and others consider that they would be better off dead;
  • Once doctors are authorised by the law to provide assisted suicide and euthanasia some of them will feel empowered to offer it to anyone they think would be better off dead. This undermines patients’ trust in doctors and can cause great distress.
A taste for killing?

Of the 1746 physicians and 91 nurse practitioners who euthanased people in 2022, some 336 of them did so 10 times or more – up 29.2% from 260 in 2021. The 91 nurse practitioners killed an average of nearly 14 people each – twice the average for medical practitioners of 7 people each.


Canada's court ordered experiment with euthanasia is already out of control with significant rates of failure to comply with the legal requirements and processes. No action appears to have been taken in response to identified cases in which euthanasia is performed contrary to the law. People with disabilities are being harassed to choose assisted suicide against their will.


Maria said...

Alex, thank you for the info, and for all the work you do to stop these killings from happening. It is terrifying to know this takes place right here in Canada. It would be great to bring this report to wider masses of Canadians and our MPs so they can take action.

Maria said...

Thank you for the great work, Alex! I wish this info was read by every Canadian so people could see the scope of maid service and also realize that this is not the right path for Canada. The numbers are terrifyingly high.((

Albert Wagner said...

I am a Christian who stands for life not death by legal injection. Every soul is regarded sacred to our Creator. Every man or women who agrees with legal injection will stand in Judgement before Almighty God. I stand against euthanasia or any killing of human life .

Anonymous said...

Why do some think that capital punishment for a heinous crime is cruel and unusual punishment, but turn around in the next breath and feel it is justifiable to give the same or similar drugs to their mothers or fathers? Are they angry that their parents brought them into the world and gave them life? Are they anxious to get their hands on the money their parents set aside for their own retirement and elder care? How do they justify such arrogance and cruelty under the banner of compassion? How did Canadians go from one of the most kind countries to mirror the brutal Phoenicians who pioneered giving their elderly Hemlock and then clobbered them in the head when the Hemlock brought on diaphragmatic and facial spasms forcing sardonic smiles and forced laughter? The Phoenicians mistook such brutal suffering as enjoyment. Has Canada lost its common sense, and its real compassion? What a legacy: to have joined the Phoenicians as one of the world's brutal societies; but to what beneficial end? The Phoenicians afterward invented crucifixion. What other brutalities will Canadians embrace next and call it compassion? It does not get better while it remains a presence. No society has ever survived killing off its vulnerable people. Eventually, they run out of people or turn on each other. There is historically no variation on that account.

Deacon William Orazio Gallerizzo
Catholic Pastoral Bioethics