Quebec Cautions Physicians After Shocking Increase In Medically Assisted Suicide Deaths

Natasha Biase

The Canadian province of Quebec has issued a notice to physicians advising them to be less lenient in approving assisted suicide for their patients. The memo urged doctors to be more selective about who gets the injection, and to allow patients more time to decide whether Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) is right for them.

According to the Daily Mail, Quebec saw MAID cases increase to 5,000 instances in 2022, accounting for nearly 8 percent of all deaths in the province.

On August 4, a memo began to circulate revealing that doctors had reportedly been sharing false information about Canada’s new MAID rules, most of which do not come into effect until March of next year.

In addition, the memo warned that some MAID applicants should have been offered more spaced-out appointments to give them more time to ensure physician-assisted suicide is the right choice for them, and accused doctors of failing to get a second opinion from a colleague before approving MAID applications.

Dr. Michel Bureau, president of Quebec’s Commission on End-of-Life Care said: “It is too early to conclude that there has been a drift in the MAIDs administered, but great rigor is required for providers and great vigilance for the commission.” 

Between 2021 and 2022, Quebec discovered that 15 medically assisted deaths did not follow the proper protocol — in six of the 15 instances, the Commission found that patients were not suffering from serious or incurable medical conditions.

News of Quebec’s relaxed approach to MAID comes at the heels of a jarring story in Vancouver, British Columbia, wherein a woman seeking treatment for suicidal ideation was offered information on physician-assisted suicide by a clinician at Vancouver General Hospital.

As previously reported by The Publica, first-year counseling student Kathryn Mentler said that she went to the hospital in June to get professional help to treat her chronic depression and ongoing thoughts of suicide and was shocked when the clinician asked if she had considered MAID, advising her that wait times to see a psychiatrist are extremely long due to Canada’s “broken” medical system.

MAID, which was legalized in Canada in 2016 for people with “reasonably foreseeable” deaths and “incurable conditions who [are] suffering intolerably,” has been a controversial topic over the last couple of years after the federal government expanded the law to include “incurable conditions that did not have an imminent risk of death,” like mental illness.

While many argue MAID offers relief and autonomy for the terminally ill, critics fear its expansion is a slippery slope that will impact society’s most vulnerable. 

Currently, Canada is known to have the world’s most liberal assisted suicide program and is on track to record a 34% increase since 2021, for a total of 13,500 deaths in 2022. 

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