More transparency needed on medically-assisted dying numbers: advocate
Published Thursday, July 19, 2018 9:34PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, July 20, 2018 10:12AM ADT
Less than half of assisted dying referrals are being fulfilled in Nova Scotia, according to numbers obtained by CTV News.
One advocate says she wants the province to be more transparent when it comes to approving people's right to die.
Sheilia Sperry's husband died of ALS six years ago and, ever since, she’s advocated for the right to die as the head of the Nova Scotia chapter of Dying With Dignity.
“To have a loved one request assistance in dying, for the family to agree to that, is the most loving, brave thing for a family to do,” Sperry says. “And they shouldn’t be tied up in a lot of paperwork.”
June marked two years since medically assisted death was made legal in Canada.
Since then, provinces have tried to work the right into their health-care system and numbers have increased.
There were 94 requests this year between Jan. 1 and June 30. Of those, 38 were given assistance to die, according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA).
The authority says the other 56 withdrew their request, lost capacity or died naturally before the assistance was fully approved
“That’s the biggest thing that jumps out at me (from) those numbers,” Sperry said. “I'm not at all surprised that 94 requested. I am surprised that only 38 of them got the service.”
Sperry would like to see how many of the 56 lost their cognitive ability to say “yes” before receiving medical assistance.
The authority says they can't grant those numbers for privacy reasons, adding it's very complex.
According to the NSHA, the average age of those who received medical assistance in dying (MAiD) was 70 years, with slightly more of the referrals being for male patients. Cancer was the most commonly reported diagnosis, followed by neuro-degenerative, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
The NSHA has recruited 12 more doctors since April. That brings the total number of doctors providing the service to 30.
“I think we're learning a lot as we go through,” said Kevin Chapman, the director of partnerships and finance for Doctors Nova Scotia.
Doctors Nova Scotia says those 30 doctors are clearly not spread out evenly across the province. That means there's often a lot of travel involved, with several appointments, and an emotional element too.
“Our fee committee is actually just approved a new fee for the provision of the service,” Chapman said. “That hopefully reflects that it's more of a longitudinal kind of process that has taken a bit more time than we had originally intended.”
For Sperry, she wants the system to be more transparent to see just how good it really is, something she hopes will ensure those who choose the right get it.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.