A study that claims euthanasia could save Canada's health care system more than $100 million annually is ringing alarm bells among euthanasia opponents. Photo/Max Pixel

A study claiming euthanasia could save millions in healthcare alarms opponents

  • January 25, 2017

OTTAWA – A study that claims euthanasia and assisted suicide could save the health-care system more than $100 million annually is ringing alarm bells among assisted-killing opponents.

“We’re creating greater social pressure to accept euthanasia and assisted suicide,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“This is what human life has come down to — dollars saved by killing someone. Now it becomes, ‘How dare you continue living when I have to pay for your costs.’ ”

The study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) released Jan. 23 estimates that up to four per cent of lives in Canada will end in assisted suicide and euthanasia, which will reduce the “disproportionate amount of health care spending” devoted to treatment for people in the last six months of life.

In terms of cost, that represents a reduction in health-care spending of $34.7 million to $138.8 million each year, compared to an expense of under $15 million to prematurely end people’s lives.

“We are not suggesting medical assistance in dying as a measure to cut costs,” the study’s authors stress. “At an individual level, neither patients nor physicians should consider costs when making the very personal decision to request, or provide, this intervention.”

But that disclaimer is of little comfort to euthanasia opponents.

“It’s a sad day to see how human life is being valued in terms of its cost-benefit analysis with regard to the health care system in Canada,” said Michel MacDonald, executive director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).

“The underlying utilitarian philosophy of the report fails to do justice to the unique dignity of the human person, a dignity that cannot be reduced to dollars and cents.”

Schadenberg believes the study reflects a pattern of recent events, such as a story on euthanasia and organ donation that promotes “euthanasia for the purposes of altruism.” Medically assisted killing was sold to Canadians on the basis of individual autonomy, but there is a societal shift towards altruism, which will become pressure on people to be euthanized, Schadenberg said.

“Money is what drives universal health care,” he said. “We have to be brutally honest.”

The CMAJ study acknowledges that palliative care “reduces end-of-life health care costs 40-70 per cent compared with standard care.” If patients had access to palliative care, many would probably chose that route instead of opting for a medically induced death, the study says.

“Our focus then should not be on euthanizing patients, but on building a comprehensive palliative care system whereby we can care for individuals and accompany them during this vulnerable time in their lives,” MacDonald said.

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