Report: Canadian doctors assisted nearly 2,000 suicides in one year

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Nearly 2,000 Canadians have chosen to end their lives with the help of a doctor in the first year since Canada legalized medically-assisted suicide, according to a report published Friday.

That number represented almost one percent of all deaths during the past year in Canada.

Ottawa passed the legislation in June 2016, and by June 30, 2017, 1,982 people chose to die this way, according to Health Canada, noting that most patients — some 63 percent — had cancer. Neurodegenerative disorders, respiratory and circulatory system failures were among the reasons many people chose euthanasia.

According to data collected for the first half of 2017, the number of assisted deaths is expected to rise but remain at less than two percent of all deaths nationwide this year — “consistent with international experience,” Health Canada said a statement.

The figures included 803 people in the first six months, and 1,179 in the second. This represents an almost 47 percent increase, with 0.9 percent of all deaths in Canada from January to June being assisted suicides.

People of all ages resorted to assisted suicide — from 18 to 91 years old — with the most common ages falling between 56 and 64.

Doctor-assisted suicide consists of a lethal injection, which can be administered either in the hospital or at home.

Days after the law was changed to allow for the practice, it was challenged in court in an attempt to expand it to include Canadians who suffer from a wasting disease but who are not facing imminent death. These include people suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, locked in syndrome, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Canadian bishops have instructed their clergy not to perform religious funerals for deceased persons who chose to die by doctor-assisted euthanasia.

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