OTTAWA — Almost 7,000 Canadians have received medical help to end their lives since Canada legalized assisted dying three years ago.
According to the latest interim report compiled by Health Canada, 6,749 people have received medically assisted deaths.
That amounts to roughly one per cent of all deaths in Canada.
Health Canada says assisted deaths were provided primarily by physicians, with less than 10 per cent provided by nurse practitioners.
Only six people have opted to self-administer drugs to end their lives.
The setting for assisted deaths has been divided primarily between hospitals and patients' homes, with cancer-related illness the most frequently cited reason for seeking the service.
The report does not include any country-wide statistics on how many Canadians have been denied medical assistance in dying because only a handful of provinces report that information. However, the report says the most commonly cited reasons for denying a request for assisted death were "loss of competency" and that the patient's natural death was not "reasonably foreseeable," as required by law.
The law requires a person to prove mental competency when they first request an assisted death and again just before it is administered. The federal government has come under pressure to drop the second competency requirement, which has resulted in some people, who’d previously been approved for assisted death, ultimately being denied the service because they lost the ability to give last-minute consent as their conditions worsened.
This is the fourth and final interim report to be issued by Health Canada, which has been compiling available data provided by provincial governments. As of last November, a mandatory national reporting system went into effect, which is expected to provide more detailed and reliable statistics in future.