Some facts about assisted suicide and euthanasia (ASE)
1/ Pain is not the most important reason why people opt for ASE where it is legal.
In every official report coming from Oregon since 1998, pain is not in the top 5 reasons. In 2021, end of life concerns were 1. losing autonomy 2. less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable 3. loss of dignity 4. burden on family, friends/caregivers and 5. losing control of bodily functions.
2/ All countries where ASE has been legalised have seen dramatically rising numbers.
Canada’s assisted dying deaths increased tenfold from 2016 to 2021, Oregon’s fourfold from 2009 to 2020 and in the Netherlands, euthanasia and assisted suicide rose from 1.2% of deaths in 2003 to 4.2% in 2019.
3/ In every country where some form of ASE is now legal, the criteria for eligibility has expanded.
3/ In a recent poll, 81% of British palliative care doctors oppose a change in the law, perhaps because they do not believe frightening stories told about the end of life.
4/ Control of pain and restlessness does not improve in countries where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is legal.
In the Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal for more than 20 years, a 2022 article noted that ‘at least one symptom-related care goal was not achieved for 28.5%–42.8% of patients’.
5/ There is no evidence that assisted suicide would reduce the overall suicide rate (if we exclude assisted suicides).
There appears to be little relationship so far between suicide rates and legalization of ASE. If anything, a culture where death is an acceptable medical treatment may encourage suicide. Non-assisted suicides in Oregon have risen by one third since it legalised assisted suicide.
6/ The claim that 84% of the British public supports assisted dying is unreliable.
There is evidence that support is skewed because a majority does not understand what ‘assisted dying’ means, thinking it includes turning off life support, stopping medical treatment, and receiving pain medication. We want to conduct a poll using honest language – assisted suicide and euthanasia – rather than confusing PR terms.
7/ Providing ASE is a money-saving enterprise, especially when it is extended to those who are not terminally ill.
A Canadian report notes that, in the case of ‘reasonably foreseeable’ deaths (i.e. those who are terminally ill), euthanasia would save the country $13,442 per patient in 2021 ($135,276,350 in total). However, once eligibility was expanded beyond ‘reasonably foreseeable’, it estimated that savings would be $53,265 per patient.
8/ Where both euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal, those seeking death opt for euthanasia.
9/ Unlike same-sex marriage, ASE has been defeated many times.
In the USA between 1994 February 2020, there were 284 proposals for legalisation. Only 11 were successful.
Source 1 This is also the case in Washington, where assisted suicide has been legal since 2008. California does not collect this information. In Canada, where the questions are worded differently, fear of adequate pain control only comes third.
Source 2 Canada is the most dramatic example of the expansion of categories. In 2021 it removed the stipulation that death must be ‘reasonably foreseen’ instituted in 2016. In March 2024, those suffering only from mental illness are set to be included. The Netherlands expanded the range of conditions considered eligible in 2007, after making it legal in 2002, while the definition of ‘unbearable suffering’ central to the law was also loosened. Belgium, which legalised euthanasia in 2003, lifted all age restrictions in 2014, making the practice possible for children.
Source 3 Dignity in Dying implies that the suicide rate will be lower if ASE is legalized and people have a ‘safe’ route to die. But, if anything, the opposite is true. See this article. There is an excellent infographic here.