Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Senator Kutcher: Suicide rates in jurisdictions that have legalized assisted death are not decreasing.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Senator Stanley Kutcher
On November 24, I had the opportunity to present our EPC brief on euthanasia Bill C-7 to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. 

After the presentations Senators asked questions and made clarifications of the witness presentations.

Senator Stanley Kutcher decided to challenge a witness by making a statement about suicide rates in jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal.

Senator Kutcher stated that in jurisdictions, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where assisted death is legal, that the suicide rates have decreased. He then stated that there is no link between assisted death and the rate of suicide in jurisdictions where it is legal. He then challenged a witness, who is a suicide prevention expert, to explain why he is concerned about euthanasia, in relation to suicide prevention.

The problem is that Senator Kutcher is simply wrong.

According to the World Population Review Belgium has the highest suicide rate in Western Europe as 20.7 per 100,000 people die by suicide, which is
 the eleventh highest rate in the world. The Netherlands suicide rate has increased, over the past several years while the suicide rate in Europe has decreased.

Professor Theo Boer
Professor Theo Boer, who was a member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee in the Netherlands for 10 years wrote in an article published on October 5 by the Irish Indendent that:

The logic of many is that assisted dying will bring down the numbers of violent and traumatizing suicides. If true, this would be a powerful argument in favour of changing the law. But the Dutch statistics speak another language. Whereas the percentage of euthanasia of the total mortality went from 1.6% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2019, the suicide numbers went also up: from 8.3 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2007 to 10.5 in 2019, a 15% rise... Meanwhile in Germany, very similar to the Netherlands in terms of religion, economy and population, the suicide rates went down by 10%.
In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been practiced since 1998, the suicide rate has increased from 16.6 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 19.6 in 2019. In Washington State, where assisted suicide was legalized in 2009, the suicide rate has increased from 13.7 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 17.6 in 2019. It is true that the US national suicide rate has increased from 12.3 per 100,000 people in 2011 to 14.2 in 2019, but the Oregon and Washington State suicide rates have increased faster than the national average.

There is no evidence that the suicide rate in jurisdictions that have legalized euthanasia and/or assisted suicide have lowered, while there is plenty of evidence that the suicide rates in these jurisdictions have increased.

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