Paul Tuns:

CBC Radio Canada reported that there was a 17 per cent increase in euthanasia deaths in Quebec in 2023 compared to the year before, with an official reported total of 5686 Medical Assistance in Dying deaths.

Radio Canada reported that “the increase is less significant than those observed in previous years,” when there were annual increases of 40-45 per cent.

The report was based on information obtained from the Commission on End-of-Life Care by Radio-Canada. The Commission’s president, Michel Bureau, said the deceleration in the growth of euthanasia represents a “plateau” in MAID deaths in Quebec. Dr. David Lussier of the University Institute of Geriatrics of Montreal called the plateau a stabilization for euthanasia rates.

The stabilization, if it is in fact plateauing, settles Quebec into the highest euthanasia rate globally. About one in 13 of all deaths in Quebec (7.3 per cent) are either euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide deaths. Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said 7.3 per cent is the “highest rate in the world in 2023.”

By comparison, about 5 per cent of deaths in Belgium and Netherlands are by euthanasia.

Lussier told Radio Canadathat “we have no sociological explanation, apart from the aging of the population,” for the unusually high rates of euthanasia deaths. Quebec Minister Responsible for Seniors and Minister for Health, Sonia Bélanger, has said the province will fund research into the reasons why MAID deaths grew so quickly in the province. Still, Lussier said, “It’s sad, but I don’t see it as a failure.”

Dr. Georges L’Esperance, a neurosurgeon and MAID doctor, told Radio Canada that the high euthanasia rate is a sign of “Quebecers gradually acquiring maturity in their end-of-life choices.” L’Esperance, who chairs the Quebec Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, said the numbers indicate that there is growing acceptance of euthanasia and that remaining restrictions should be lifted.

Radio Canada reported that when MAID was legalized in Quebec 10 years ago, officials “expected that around a hundred people would obtain medical assistance in dying each year.”

If anything, the official statistics might underreport the frequency of euthanasia deaths.

Amy Hasbrouck, the leader of Toujour Vivant – Not Dead Yet, has analyzed the Quebec Commission on End-of-Life Care Eighth Annual Report covering MAiD deaths from April 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023 – a period overlapping part of Radio Canada’s report – which reported there were 5211 euthanasia and assisted-suicide deaths, compared to 3663 from April 2, 2021 to March 31, 2022. Hasbrouck’s analysis of the eighth annual report found that although there were 5,211 euthanasia deaths reported by doctors in declaration forms, while hospitals and other institutions reported there were 5,401 euthanasia deaths and that the total number of euthanasia declaration forms received by the commission were 5208. Those numbers represent a discrepancy of 190 euthanasia deaths in the official statistics. A similar analysis by Hasbrouck for the Seventh Annual Report found a discrepancy of 289 deaths.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has called upon the Quebec government to investigate the discrepancies. Schadenberg asked in an article he wrote about MAiD in that province, “How many Quebec euthanasia deaths actually occur?”