Increasing number of Canadians seeking medically assisted death: Health Canada

By Michael Williams

More and more Canadians are seeking Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), according to recent federal data.

There were 13,000 assisted deaths in this country in 2022, Health Canada says. That’s up 30 per cent from the previous year.

Cancer is the most common condition for those seeking MAiD, making up 63 per cent of all recipients last year.

Alex Muir speaks for Dying with Dignity Canada. The national charity is now urging the government to expand the eligibility criteria to encompass a broader range of illnesses, diseases, and disabilities.

“What people want is they want to be able to say today, ‘If I reach this condition in the future …I want to be able to access MAiD,'” he said, explaining that this is typically associated with cases involving Alzheimer’s and other similar situations. “So it’s called an advanced request. This is actually something being investigated by the parliamentarians, and so we’re hoping at some point to see some legislation in this area.”

Muir says it isn’t surprising that rates are on the rise.

“I think what’s happening here is that as people are finding out that medically assisted death is an option, they are saying, ‘well, that is something that appeals to me if I’m suffering,'” he said. “Also, as more people are accessing it, more people know someone or a family that has been through a MAiD death. And so that is increasing awareness about this as an end-of-life option.”

Last year, MAiD accounted for more than 4 per cent of all deaths. Rates of medically assisted deaths have been rising throughout Canada since 2016, after the federal government passed legislation that allows citizens to make this request.

Originally, Muir says, a patient’s death had to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible, so at first, it was mostly terminal illnesses. Eligibility expanded in 2021, Muir says, so those whose deaths are not reasonably foreseeable can also have access.

With files from Alejandro Melgar.

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