Third interim “MAID” report published

Our review of Health Canada’s third interim report.

Third interim “MAID” report published – July 4, 2018
Taylor Hyatt – Policy Analyst & Outreach Coordinator, Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet

Update – April 2019 – When the third interim report on Medical Assistance in Dying was released by Health Canada in June 2018, we mistakenly said it was the “final” interim report. The fourth (and final) interim report, covering the period of January through October, 2018, was published on April 25, 2019. An analysis of the fourth interim report is available on our webcast for May 3, 2019, and on our website. The federal monitoring system went into effect in November 2018 and will provide the data for the next report on the MAiD program to be published in the spring of 2020, and all subsequent reports.

On June 21, Health Canada released its third interim report on assisted suicide and euthanasia (AS/E). This report contains basic demographic information about people who requested or died by AS/E between July 1 and December 31, 2017.

This is the final interim report. From now on, the government will rely on the monitoring regulations drawn up by Health Canada. The final version of these regulations has not yet been released. The latest draft was published in December.  The draft, along with comments we sent to Health Canada staff, can be read here.

The previous reports were released in April 2017 and October 2017. They provide some information about Canadians who died by AS/E from June to December, 2016, and January to June, 2017. The first report also includes statistics from Québec for the six months from December 2015 to June 2016. Our webcasts of May 5, 2017 and October 20, 2017 provide a short overview of those documents.  Outside of Québec, Continuous Palliative Sedation (CPS) is not recorded.

Here are some highlights of the new report:

  • 1,525 people across Canada died by AS/E between July 1 and December 31, 2017. All of those deaths were euthanasia; no one self-administered the lethal substance in an assisted suicide.
  • A total of 3,714 people died by AS/E between December 10, 2015 – when Québec’s program began – and December 31, 2017.
  • The average age of people who receive euthanasia and assisted suicide is 73 years. The percentage of women (51%) vs. men (49%) who die is also consistent throughout 2017.
  • Cancer is still the most common medical condition affecting people who opt for AS/E. It was mentioned in 65% of the applications filed in the second half of 2017.
  • Where the deaths took place:
    • 5% of the deaths took place in a hospital.
    • 3% occurred in the person’s home,
    • 3 % of euthanasia were performed in Long Term Care facilities/nursing homes.
    • 3% were done in Hospices. (deaths in hospice were counted as a separate category for the first time in this report)
    • Notably, the location for 7.9% of the deaths is listed as “other/unknown.” This is a decrease from 9% of deaths recorded in the second interim report. “Other” includes “retirement homes, assisted or supportive living, (an) ambulatory setting, day program space, clinician’s office, funeral home, hotel/motel,” or another undisclosed setting. The “unknown” label includes “data that was suppressed by provinces due to smaller numbers (less than 7) and associated privacy concerns.”
  • Since the population of the territories is so small, totals from Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut have been omitted to protect the privacy of those who requested ore received AS/E.
  • No information is provided about the living situation of those who died, nor the reasons they requested euthanasia. Did people have the pain relief or other supports they needed to live well at home? Was anyone pressured to die? Were all safeguards followed? There is no way to know. This is not a good sign for the safety of the assisted suicide/euthanasia program.

In its Summary of responses to public consultation on the proposed Monitoring of Medical Assistance in Dying Regulations, Health Canada appears to place more emphasis on the needs of practitioners than on its obligation to oversee medical killing:

  • Practitioner burden should be a key consideration in developing reporting requirements. Measures to mitigate burden, such as the designation of provincial and territorial recipients of reports, and the use of an online reporting portal, were largely supported.
  • Reporting requirements should not be so burdensome that they discourage practitioners from providing MAID

As compared to:

  • Data collection should be expanded to include reporting on symptoms, suffering, social concerns, and suicide risk.

The final regulations for monitoring the AS/E program are due to be released before the fall. Until then, the various factors that make assisted suicide and euthanasia attractive to Canadians will not be addressed, and many more lives will be at risk.