According to an article in Le Devoir published on July 6, 2016, there have been 252 requests for euthanasia in Québec since December 10, 2015, and 166 people died by euthanasia. Another 249 people were given terminal palliative sedation.
A similar article from Radio Canada published on the Huffington Post Québec website on the same day put the figures somewhat lower. The Radio Canada report said that 128 people have been euthanized, while 200 people requested the procedure. Radio Canada did not mention a figure for terminal palliative sedation. The Commission on End-Of-Life Care has not issued an official report on the number of euthanasia procedures; their report is expected in September.
The statistics were compiled by each publication from information on the websites of hospitals throughout Québec. Each media outlet has interpreted the statistics according to its own position on the issue. While Radio Canada’s article is relatively neutral, the piece in Le Devoir implies that people’s rights are being violated if they die before the eligibility evaluation process is completed and euthanasia can be administered.
The figures speak for themselves
According to a compilation of all the reports submitted by Quebec hospitals conducted by Le Devoir, 252 people asked for medical help to die since 10 December, and 166 received it.
In almost 34% of cases, 85 patients, medical aid in dying was not given, confirming the trend highlighted in June by Le Devoir, with partial data. In 16 cases, patients changed their minds during the process, which represents less than 7% of total applications and a fifth of requests for euthanasia not administered.
In only 27 cases, or nearly 11% of total requests, euthanasia was refused because patients did not meet the criteria of the law. Recall that the patient must be an adult and able to consent to care and be end of life. [They must also have] an incurable and serious disease, the patient should experience a “advanced and irreversible” decline in his capabilities, and experience “constant, unbearable physical or mental suffering that can not be appeased in conditions deemed tolerable.”
A marginal demand
Analysis of the reports on assistance to die also shows that during the same period, 249 people received terminal palliative sedation – a procedure that puts the patient in an irreversible coma leading to death – or roughly the same number as those who requested medical help to die. Overall, aid in dying so far remained marginal: it accounts for only 0.6% of the total number of palliative care reported by institutions in this first report.
Of the total deaths expected in six months, aid in dying would represent less than 5 deaths in 1000 up to now, if we extrapolate from the data provided by the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ) that shows 65,000 deaths in 2015. According to the Ministry of Health, the proportion of requests for aid in dying account for about 2% of deaths in countries that have passed laws authorizing this end of life care.
LifeNews Note: Amy Hasbrouck is the director of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet, a disability rights group in Canada.