August 14, 2022

Quebec euthanasia deaths soar to three times expected figure

Even the province’s health minister is surprised

Phil Carpenter / Montreal Gazette     

Almost three times the number forecast have died through euthanasia or assisted suicide in Quebec, according to the province’s first official statistics.  Since the law came into effect on December 10, 262 had died; by the end of 12 months, the figure will rise to about 300.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette told the Quebec Assembly that he was surprised. “I mentioned many times that I was expecting about 100,” Barrette said during a news conference. “It’s almost three times that. Actually, on a one-year period, it will be over 300 … that in itself is surprising to me.”

The report says that 87 people requested euthanasia but it was not administered: 36 of them did not meet the criteria set out in Quebec’s law, 24 people changed their minds, 21 died first, one postponed it, and five requests are still being processed.

On a per capita basis, more died in Quebec (45) than Montreal (54), whose population is three times as big.

“It’s normal to see differences between cities,” Barrette explained. “In Quebec City, there’s some form of homogeneity about the general population — it’s French speaking, Catholic and we know that in Quebec, that group has a different relationship with the religious principles … when we look at the social fabric of Montreal, ethnic communities are more numerous proportionally and often more religious.”

The system is operating “very, very. very well”, with all safeguards firmly in place, according to the Minister. However, about 8% of the deaths were, technically speaking, illegal. In 21 cases, not all of the legal requirements were observed. According to the Globe and Mail:

The vast majority of those – 18 – involved questions about the independence of the second doctor who is required to sign off on the assisted death. Mr. Barrette said the problem often arises in smaller communities where doctors know one another.

Of the remaining three cases, two were instances in which assisted death was administered without proving the patient was at the end of life. In one case, it wasn’t proven that the patient was facing a serious and incurable illness, as required under the law.

Nonetheless, Mr Barrette declared that “I think the public can continue to have confidence in the process, which is being done properly.”

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