Canada euthanised 10,064 people in 2021

Canada’s Third Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada (2021) was published at the end of July.

Euthanasia in Canada in its legal voluntary form is called medical assistance in dying (MAID) and it first became legal along with assisted suicide in June 2016 to end the suffering of terminally ill adults. In March 2021, the law was further amended by Bill C-7 which permits assisted euthanasia in additional situations, including for certain patients whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, subject to additional safeguards.

Remarkably, there has been little media attention either in Canada or elsewhere. The daily euthanising of around 30 individuals of any other mammal species would hardly go unnoticed. Yet, it probably is a very good thing that assisted dying in Canada happens quietly and without fuss. Hopefully the system is sufficiently robust to prevent misuse.

The average age of the euthanised was 76.3 years. The main reasons for requesting MAiD were loss of ability to engage in meaningful activities (86.3%) and the loss of ability to perform activities of daily living (83.4%). Concern about pain was a reason for wanting to die for 57.6%. Around 20% indicated loneliness or isolation as a reason for wanting to die.

I observe that my views about medical assistance in dying have evolved over the years. Now at 74, I find that reduction of suffering and preventing the indignities of dementia take precedence.

BioEdge writes:

  • In 2021, there were 10,064 MAID deaths, representing 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.
  • This is an increase of 32.4% over 2020.
  • The total MAiD deaths since Canada’s 2016 legislation is 31,664.


Even if the MAiD annual report flew under the radar, the media has not ignored the issue. CTV News Toronto recently interviewed a Toronto woman in her 50s who is suffering from long Covid and has applied for MAiD. “[MAiD] is exclusively a financial consideration,” she said. “My choices are basically to die slowly and painfully, or quickly. Those are the options that are left.”

At the moment, the Canadian government is studying whether to expand eligibility for MAiD by extending it to people with mental illness. A doctor who is the physician chair of a hospital MAiD team expressed his alarm. Writing in the National Observer, Dr Sonu Gaind said:

It is a myth that expanded MAiD is just about autonomy. Expansion may increase privileged autonomy for some to die with dignity, but it does so by sacrificing other marginalized Canadians to premature deaths for escaping painful lives that we failed to allow them to live with dignity.


Growth in the number of medically assisted deaths in Canada continues in 2021

  • In 2021, there were 10,064 MAID provisions reported in Canada, accounting for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada.
  • The number of cases of MAID in 2021 represents a growth rate of 32.4% over 2020. All provinces continue to experience a steady year over year growth.
  • When all data sources are considered, the total number of medically assisted deaths reported in Canada since the Parliament of Canada passed federal legislation that allows eligible Canadian adults to request medical assistance in dying in 2016 is 31,664.

Profile of MAID recipients

  • In 2021, across Canada, a slightly larger proportion of men (52.3%) than women (47.7%) received MAID. This result is consistent with 2020 (51.9% men vs 48.1% of women) and 2019 (50.9% men vs 49.1% women).
  • The average age at the time MAID was provided in 2021 was 76.3 years, slightly higher than the averages in 2019 and 2020 (75.2 and 75.3 respectively). The average age of women during 2021 was 77.0, compared to men at 75.6.
  • Cancer (65.6%) is the most commonly cited underlying medical condition in the majority of MAID provisions during 2021, slightly down from 69.1% in 2020. This is followed by cardiovascular conditions (18.7%), chronic respiratory conditions (12.4%), and neurological conditions (12.4%). Three-quarters of MAID recipients had one main condition, while one-quarter had two or more main underlying medical conditions.
  • In 2021, 2.2% of the total number of MAID provisions (219 individuals), were individuals whose natural deaths were not reasonably foreseeable (non-RFND) (in Quebec since 2019 and the rest of Canada after the passage of the new legislation on March 17, 2021). The most commonly cited underlying medical condition for this population was neurological (45.7%), followed by other condition (37.9%), and multiple comorbidities (21.0%). The average age of individuals receiving MAID who were non-RFND was 70.1.



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