According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, doctor-assisted death could return millions of dollars to hospitals, research and other worthy medical causes — assuming enough people opt for an early death.
The catch is that saving $100 million annually will require 10,000 Canadians to consent each year to assisted suicide or euthanasia. Those are big numbers and they are troubling because they give rise to concerns about people being pressured or feeling obligated to do their “duty” for the good of society. If only 2,500 Canadians opt for premature death, the low end of what the study predicts, the annual net return drops from a high of $124 million to just $33 million.
Either way, the authors note, assisted death should result in “substantial savings.” Morals and ethics aside (as often happens in this debate), legalized assisted killing offers a good return on investment. It is simply more cost-efficient to provide death than to sustain life, the study concludes. Is anyone surprised?
The economics of assisted death loomed like the elephant in the room after the Supreme Court sent Canada hurtling down this path two years ago. The issue was mostly debated in legal, moral and ethical terms as new laws were written, but it was only a matter of time before the discussion turned to money.
Perhaps it is a coincidence, but this study appeared in January as a government-appointed committee was beginning an independent review of the doctor-assisted-dying legislation that Parliament passed last June. The review will examine if the law should be amended to offer assisted death to even more people, including minors, the mentally ill and people seeking an advance directive.
More euthanized patients equals more savings, of course. So if finances weren’t a significant consideration in the past, it seems likely they’ll become so now. That’s alarming and marks a new and troubling phase in this debate.
What started years ago as a challenge by a few terminally ill people for a right to die in specific situations, then escalated into a demand by many to die on their terms, now threatens to become a discussion about the cost benefits to society of expanding the boundaries of assisted killing.
No one is being so blunt, of course. In fact, the authors of the study say the opposite. But it seems clear that the so-called economic upside of assisted killing will become a louder talking point as this debate rolls on.
That’s tragic, but not surprising.