In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:
- Ontario’s report on medical aid in dying: What’s missing?
- Assisted suicides in Switzerland increase in 2014 and 2015
Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.
ONTARIO MEDICAL AID IN DYING REPORT: WHAT’S MISSING?
- The office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario has released the first statistics for the euthanasia/assisted dying program in Ontario for the period of June 6 through September 30, 2016. They reported a total of 79 euthanasia and assisted suicides.
- The report does not include the 13 court-authorized euthanasia that were performed in Ontario between February 6 and June 6, bringing the total to 92.
- Toronto’s Globe and Mail stated in an article on October 6 that 95 people had died by assisted suicide or euthanasia in Ontario since February 6. Other news outlets put the total at 87 or 89.
- The report, which is presented as a one-page power-point slide, begins by breaking down the 79 assisted death by type (77 euthanasia and 2 assisted suicides). The “Underlying [medical] condition” is listed next, without reference to the nature of the “intolerable suffering” experienced by the person. Without this information we can’t know who may have been rendered vulnerable to inducement to commit suicide by their circumstances.
- The categories of underlying condition are:
- Cancer-Related – 50
- ALS – 9
- Other neurological – 10
- Cardio-vascular/Respiratory – 6
- Other – 4
- Neither the “other neurological” nor the “other” category (totalling 14 cases) are specified. This is important because there are many neurological conditions (such as multiple sclerosis, mental illness and autism) that might not make someone eligible for assisted suicide but for which people have been granted euthanasia in other jurisdictions.
- According to the report, 40 people died in hospital, and 39 people died “at home” where “home” is defined to include nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This statistic should be broken down further to specify how many people lived in institutions, to give an indication as to whether their living situation might have made them vulnerable to inducement to commit suicide.
- The number of assisted suicide and euthanasia cases is then broken down by County, with the largest numbers occurring in Toronto (24) and Ottawa (8) while most other counties had less than five each.
- And that’s it; that’s all the information provided. This is a simple coroner’s report.
- There is no demographic information about the people who were euthanized, no information to show whether the safeguards in the law were complied with, no information about the doctors who performed euthanasia.
- There’s no way to ensure that all doctors who performed euthanasia actually filled out the correct paperwork and submitted the report to federal authorities. We don’t know what, if any, information will be collected and provided by the federal government in future reports about the progress of the medical aid in dying program.
- What we have is information that was taken from death reports sent to Ontario’s Coroner’s office. This report does not show whether the cause of death was listed as medical aid in dying or the underlying medical condition.
ASSISTED SUICIDE IN SWITZERLAND INCREASES IN 2014 AND 2015
- According to an article at Swissinfo.ch, the latest numbers on assisted suicides in Switzerland show a 26% increase in the year 2014. The vast majority of those who died by assisted suicide were terminally ill. The article can be found at http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/latest-statistics_assisted-suicides-increase-in-switzerland/42508452.
- The Federal Statistical Office reports that in 2014 Switzerland had 742 cases of assisted suicide, more than 2.5 times as many as in 2009, five years earlier. In 2014, assisted suicide accounted for 1.2% of all deaths in Switzerland.
- Men and women were nearly equally represented in the assisted suicide numbers.
- In 42% of cases, assisted suicides followed illnesses related to cancer. Neurodegenerative disorders led to 14% of assisted suicides, followed by cardiovascular illnesses at 11% and musculoskeletal maladies at 10%. The Swissinfo article did not explain what “musculoskeletal” maladies meant.
- The Exit suicide clinic reported a 34% increase in 2015; from 583 assisted suicide deaths in 2014 to 782 in 2015. Deaths from the other Swiss suicide clinics in 2015 have not yet been reported.
- The Exit suicide clinic report indicated that of the assisted suicide deaths in 2015, 55% were women and 45% were men.