Alex Schadenberg

‘Negligible’ savings from assisted suicide, report says

By 
  • November 27, 2020

OTTAWA -- A fiscal analysis of Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) system shows that making access to an assisted suicide easier could save Canada’s health-care system up to $149 million a year.

But the study, which was prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), is quick to point out the level of savings is a very small percentage — 0.08 per cent — of what the provinces, which administer health services, spend on health care each year. In 2019, total health expenditure in Canada was estimated at $264 billion, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“Expanding access to MAiD will result in a net reduction in health-care costs for the provincial governments,” the PBO report said. “However, this reduction represents a negligible portion of the health-care budgets of provinces.”

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, noted that when Canada started down the road of legalizing euthanasia, “the government stated that it was not about saving money, yet Parliament has failed in its promise to improve end-of-life care.”

“The (PBO) report goes on to state that Bill C-7 will result in more and earlier euthanasia deaths, leading to future cost savings of $149 million per year. Sadly, some people will argue that this is a good reason to promote euthanasia,” he said. 

Schadenberg added that the failure to significantly fund improvements to palliative care options and undertake a national review of palliative care before expanding the MAiD system is a betrayal of a government promise for a five-year review of the MAiD system before making any changes.

The October PBO report, entitled “Cost Estimate for Bill C-7 ‘Medical Assistance in Dying,’ ” examined the costs of the existing MAiD system in place since 2016 and the impact of changing the MAiD system to make it easier to access for those whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable.”

The report said many studies show health-care costs in the last year of life “are disproportionately high, representing between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of total health-care costs despite these patients representing about one per cent of the population.”

“Nevertheless, this report should in no way be interpreted as suggesting that MAiD be used to reduce health-care costs,” the PBO report continued.

The examination of the financial impact of expanding MAiD comes as a “pre-study” of Bill C-7 continued through the Senate’s standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs hearings that were scheduled to end Nov. 27. This committee follows upon the Parliamentary committee studying Bill C-7, introduced earlier this year in response to a Quebec Superior Court ruling that found the legislation passed in 2016 unconstitutionally restricted MAiD to those whose death was “reasonably foreseeable.” The bill expands MAiD eligibility to people who are suffering but not expected to die.

Bill C-7 would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting at the time they use the MAiD system.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with other faith communities and disability organizations in denouncing the expansion of the MAiD system, calling instead for greater access to palliative care.

Justice Minister David Lametti told the Senate committee Nov. 23 he believes the government has struck the right balance in respecting the dignity of people with disabilities and their right to choose to end their life if suffering becomes too great. He also said he would like to see the MAiD regime expanded to people suffering solely from mental illness, but the government doesn’t have enough time to do so before the Dec. 18 court-ordered deadline for passage.

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