Health

Euthanasia Is Now A Leading Cause Of Death In Canada, And Ethicists Are Freaking Out

(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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Euthanasia is now a leading cause of death in Canada only a few years after being legalized.

Euthanasia became a legal option for Canadians 18 years and older in 2016, who had to prove suffering from severe pain and have a reasonably foreseeable death, as well as two doctors signing off on the decision.

The practice is only legal in seven countries, as well as some parts of Australia, according to The Associated Press (AP). Canada’s particular law is more expansive than most, but it is set to become even more broad next year.

Now, any adult with a serious disease or a mental health reason can seek euthanasia, according to the AP. The policy is also creeping forward to encompass the mentally ill, poor, and soon children, with some experts saying the law is going too far.

“[The law is] probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis’ program in Germany in the 1930s,” Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, told the AP.

Pope Francis also decried the idea that some patients would be “administered death” rather than affection. (RELATED: Former Columbia Scholar Worries Texas Law Will Lead To More Children With Down Syndrome, Make US ‘Outliers In The Whole Developed World’)

Other countries where euthanasia is legal have certain safeguards, such as prohibiting doctors from mentioning it as a treatment option for patients or requiring them to exhaust all other treatment options before turning to euthanasia as a last resort. Canada has no such guardrails, according to AP.

The broad eligibility has led to more than 10,000 Canadians being euthanized in the most recent year for which data is available, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the country, the AP reported.

Some disabled Canadians are choosing to be euthanized not because of their disability, but because of mounting medical debts, the AP found.

Sean Tagert, a 41-year-old man suffering from ALS, opted for euthanasia in 2019 in part because he couldn’t keep up with high costs to allow him to continue living at home with caretakers, according to AP. Roger Foley, a man hospitalized in Ontario with a degenerative brain disease, was told by one staffer that it would cost $1,500 per day to keep him alive in the hospital before mentioning euthanasia, the outlet reported.

The United Nations has raised concerns with Canada’s government about the euthanasia policy. Independent experts continue to call for more restrictions. But the government is pushing ahead, insisting the aim is to help Canadians “die with dignity” if they so choose.