The number of Canadians who ended their lives by euthanasia and assisted suicide increased by 17% in 2020, the country’s health department announced on Monday.
According to Abby Hoffman, assistant deputy minister of Health Canada, 7,595 people received “medically assisted deaths” last year, a figure which amounts to 2.5% of all deaths in Canada for the year.
In 2019, 5,631 people died by physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada, which accounted for 2% of all deaths in the country.
Hoffman revealed the numbers at a joint parliamentary committee meeting. Members of the committee are reviewing the country’s euthanasia practices.
In Canada, a patient who is requesting lethal drugs does not have to self-administer the medication. While Canadians have the option to do so, the number of patients who self-administer the medication is statistically insignificant.
The increase in physician-assisted deaths occurred prior to passage of a law that could greatly expand the number of patients requesting euthanasia. Bill C-7, which eliminated the requirement that a patient’s death be “reasonably foreseeable” in order for lethal drugs to be prescribed them, became law in March 2021.
Bill C-7 allows for any patient who is suffering, regardless if their condition is terminal or not, to request and receive an assisted death. Under the new law, depression and other mental illnesses are grounds for euthanasia and assisted suicide.
On Monday, Hoffman stated that in 2020, as in years past, cancer was the most commonly-cited illness among people who requested lethal drugs. The reasons most frequently cited for requesting euthanasia were “the inability to engage in meaningful activities or perform activities of daily living.”