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A new research report from the University of Calgary states that allowing medically assisted dying in Canada could reduce annual health care spending nationally between $34.7 million and $138.8 million.
The controversial study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reports the reduction in health care spending would exceed the $1.5 to $14.8 million in direct costs associated with implementing medically assisted dying.
The researchers, Dr. Aaron J. Trachtenberg and Dr. Braden Manns, used and compared published data from the Netherlands and Belgium, where medically assisted death is legal. They estimate that medical assistance in dying will account for 1%–4% of all deaths in Canada in which:
- 80% of patients will have cancer,
- 50% of patients will be aged 60–80 year,
- 55% will be men,
- 60% of patients will have their lives shortened by 1 month,
- 40% of patients will have their lives shortened by 1 week.
Parliment passed Bill C-14, lifting prohibitions on medical assistance in dying, in June of 2016. The research argues that now the logistics of offering medical assistance in dying to Canadians need to be formalized, and the consequences of this practice need to be anticipated.
Using research from a study in Ontario, the authors noted that the average person generates $14,000 in health-care costs during the last 30 days of his or her life, often receiving intensive treatment that may only make death more difficult.
“As death approaches, health care costs increase dramatically in the final months. Patients who choose medical assistance in dying may forgo this resource-intensive period.”
However, “There was no agenda to this cost analysis,” stressed Trachtenberg.”We’re definitely not suggesting that medical assistance in dying be chosen over any other way of dying,” he said. “We’re just trying to describe the reality that may exist in Canada” under the new law.”
In conclusion, Trachtenberg and Manns state that, “providing medical assistance in dying in Canada should not result in any excess financial burden to the health care system and could result in substantial savings.”