HomeHealth Care NewsEuthanasia Now a Leading ‘Manner’ of Death in Canada

Euthanasia Now a Leading ‘Manner’ of Death in Canada

The preoccupation with COVID-19 since early 2020 has diverted attention from many other serious medical problems, including the startling rise of euthanasia in neighboring Canada, whose health care system many Americans praise.

Euthanasia, in which doctors use drugs to kill consenting patients, has been legal in Canada since 2016. To be eligible for the procedure, the law first stated a person must be at least 18 years old, be able to prove he or she is suffering from severe physical pain with a reasonable expectation of a foreseeable death, and have two doctors sign off on the decision to terminate life.

Since going into effect, the law has been amended to allow people who are not terminally ill to choose to be put to death.

Euthanasia accounted for more than 10,000 deaths in Canada in 2021, up by about one-third from the previous year, The Associated Press reported on August 11.

Confusion About Numbers

In 2019, suicide was listed as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. It is unclear whether euthanasia is included in that number.

The number of people dying by euthanasia in Canada is unclear because euthanasia is recognized as a “manner” of death, not an underlying cause. Two Canadian provinces—Ontario and Quebec—explicitly instruct doctors not to indicate on death certificates that people died from euthanasia, and Canada’s national statistical agency says the statistics enumerate the “underlying cause of death,” not euthanasia.

Currently, seven U.S. states have “right-to-die’ laws on the books: California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia. Although these laws are broader than traditional end-of-life decisions such as “do not resuscitate,” they are distinct from euthanasia. Euthanasia, a broader category than “right-to-die” laws, is legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and several states in Australia.

World’s Most Permissive

Even among the few nations that allow euthanasia, Canada’s law is unusually permissive in allowing nurse practitioners, not just doctors, to administer the lethal drugs.

Such is the permissiveness of Canada’s euthanasia law that last year three experts with the United Nations Human Rights Commission voiced their “grave concerns” the law violates the agency’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The practice is garnering critics in Canada, who express concerns about the ethical implications of the law. Harvey Price, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, says the embrace of euthanasia is part of a larger, disturbing trend in Canada.

“Canada is rapidly becoming the world’s leading manufacturer of death,” Price said. “Even Catholic nursing homes dedicated to palliative care, such as British Columbia’s Delta Hospice, have narrowly escaped being coerced into becoming killing fields under the federal ‘Medical Assistance in Dying Act,’ so fittingly acronymized as ‘MAID’—’call us to clean up your mess.’

“In Canada of late there are more-stringent restrictions on the disposal of household waste at the local rubbish tip than the killing of the burdensome elderly, mentally ill, or babies in the womb,” Price said.

‘Healers, Not Killers’

Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which co-publishes Health Care News, says the expansion of euthanasia is part of a downward spiral of ethics in the medical profession.

“People often talk about doctors taking the Oath of Hippocrates, but these days they generally don’t, substituting a bastardized version or making up one of their own,” Orient said. “The original oath explicitly forbids euthanasia and abortion: ‘To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug or give advice which may cause his death.’

“Doctors are healers, not killers,” Orient said. “Worse still, doctors or facilities may be punished for refusing to provide or arrange for this ‘medical service.’ At least at first, Nazi doctors rationalized the killing of the insane or disabled as a merciful service.”


Bonner Russell Cohen, Ph.D., (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.


See related article, Oregon Officials Agree to Physician-Assisted Suicide to Non-residents

Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.


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