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Cancer the leading underlying condition in medically assisted deaths in Ontario

Last Updated Jan 31, 2019 at 6:52 pm EDT

Health Minister Jane Philpott, right, speaks as Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould looks on at a news conference in Ottawa on April 14, 2016, as the federal government introduced a new law spelling out the conditions in which seriously ill or dying Canadians may seek medical help to end their lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

More than 500 Ontarians aged 27 to 101 have chosen medically assisted death since it became legal in Canada a little over one year ago, according to new statistics from Ontario’s chief coroner.

Of the 548 medically assisted deaths in Ontario, cancer was the most common underlying condition, found in 360 deaths, followed by and neurological and respiratory conditions, the coroner says.

In only one case, the medication used to cause death was self-administered. In all other cases it was administered by doctors.

Medically assisted deaths occurred most often in hospitals, followed by private homes, with the remainder in long-term care homes and retirement homes.

The coroner’s statistics cover June 17, 2016 — the day the federal assisted dying law came into force — to June 30, 2017.

Meanwhile, the government of Ontario is still working with physicians to develop a fee code — which sets what doctors are paid — for performing a medically assisted death.

According to the health minister’s office, doctors can bill the government for a counselling or a consultation, and in some cases a home visit and or an intravenous therapy.

Spokeswoman Laura Gallant said the government has yet to determine if the new fee code, once set, will be applied retroactively in medically assisted deaths that have already occurred.