Are Canada’s Skyrocketing Assisted Suicide Death Rates a Harbinger for America?

‘Some people say, ‘Well, we can have a little bit of this.’ That’s what they argued in Canada too,’ a Canadian expert warns American euthanasia advocates.

AP/Rich Pedroncelli, file
Supporters of a measure to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives march at the capitol at Sacramento, California, September 24, 2015. AP/Rich Pedroncelli, file

As backers of assisted suicide push to expand legalization in the United States, new numbers from Canada’s government show euthanasia is now the fifth-leading cause of death in the country. 

A stunning 4 percent of the country’s deaths last year were due to assisted suicide. More than 13,000 patients died by it in 2022 — a 31 percent spike from the previous year. The country’s deaths by euthanasia now number nearly 45,000 since legalization in 2016, almost as many as have died from Covid in Canada.

Canada has drawn international attention and concern for its liberal euthanasia laws. The country expanded its Medical Aid in Dying law to allow mental illness as a condition for dying, which will go into effect March 2024, as The New York Sun has reported. 

Canada’s skyrocketing death numbers are raising concerns about American efforts to further legalize assisted suicide.

Some advocacy groups say expanding euthanasia for mentally ill or disabled patients prevents discrimination, while others warn the expanded legalization will lead to a culture of death that allows drug-addicted patients to be assisted in killing themselves, even though they are not sober or able to give their consent. 

Groups that are advocating for more legal assisted suicide in America should learn from and be wary of Canada’s death rates, a top Canadian euthanasia expert warns. 

“You don’t want to legalize this because you can’t keep the door shut,” the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s executive director, Alex Schadenberg, tells the Sun. 

“Some people say, ‘Well, we can have a little bit of this.’ That’s what they argued in Canada too,” he says. Euthanasia advocates say they’re providing a social good by ending suffering, he says. 

“But in the end, it can’t be controlled,” Mr. Schadenberg adds. “If it’s okay for me to kill you or to kill somebody, then these safeguards become seen as a hindrance,” he says, and advocates begin a political push to remove barriers. 

Pro-euthanasia groups begin by saying they only support assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, he notes, but in Canada, it was then ruled that it was discrimination to not include patients who have disabilities. 

Although euthanasia is currently less accessible in America than in Canada, California had a 63 percent increase in assisted suicide last year. 

“It’s actually a trend that we’re seeing everywhere,” Mr. Schadenberg adds. “And there’s nothing saying there won’t be another big bump this year in California and in other states.” 

Oregon removed its waiting period in 2019, Mr. Schadenberg notes, and Oregon and Vermont removed residency requirements, leading to “suicide tourism,” as residents travel from out of state to die, the Sun has reported.

In nearly 500 cases — 3.5 percent of Canada’s assisted suicide deaths — the patient was not terminally ill or did not have a reasonably foreseeable death. A recent Canadian conference concluded that people with drug addiction should be eligible for euthanasia since addiction is a mental illness.

It’s “really problematic” to let someone consent to end their life in the midst of a chronic drug addiction, Mr. Schadenberg says. “They have serious addiction problems, so they’d have serious incapabilities or problems with consenting, not knowing the reality of their health condition.”

Only 28 percent of Canadians support euthanasia solely for mental health conditions, according to Canadian polling data. Death With Dignity, which describes itself as “a national leader in end-of-life advocacy and policy reform,” was unable to immediately comment.

Its mission, according to its website, is to “ensure people with terminal illness can decide for themselves what a good death means in accordance with their values and beliefs, and that should include having an option for death with dignity,” the statement reads. “We won’t stop until that is a reality in every part of the country.”

Canadian medical professionals will soon “be able to legally abandon mentally ill and depressed people to their illness and despair, offering to kill them as the ‘treatment’ for their problems,” Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition tells the Sun.

“I caution American states not to allow euthanasia for any reason, not even for the terminally ill,” the group’s president, Jeff Gunnarson, says. “Because, inexorably, the killing will expand, and eventually, your situation will resemble Canada’s.”

The New York Sun

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