Bioethics Blogs

Cost of Medical Assistance in Dying

Cristina Alarcon questions the social costs of legalizing medical assistance in dying.

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In June 2016, Bill C-14 (the legislation on medical assistance in dying) received royal and assent and a new medical service became available to Canadians. This legislation provides some Canadians (patients) with the legal option to request medical assistance in dying and other Canadians (physicians and nurse practitioners) with the legal authority to provide that assistance. But at what cost?

The financial costs related to medical assistance in dying are relatively inexpensive. Physician’s fees have not yet been determined, but an interim document lists the cost at $ 440.05 for a general practitioner and  $519.08 for a specialist. The drugs themselves will cost about $300. In British Columbia, for example, participating drug stores will charge a $60 to $100 “clinical services” fee for dispensing the oral or IV drug regimen plus a backup- in case the patient fails to die.

The social costs of medical assistance in dying might be higher.

First, much has already been said about safeguards that may never be. Already a BC court case seeks to “strike down” as unconstitutional the provision in C-14 that states a person’s “natural death must be reasonably foreseeable” to qualify for death by lethal injection. In time, treatable chronic illnesses may become eligible for this irreversible “treatment.”

Second, there are concerns about harm to vulnerable persons. For example, in 2004, a British nurse tried to murder four of her elderly patients in a ruthless drive to free up hospital beds. In April 2015, a Czech nurse admitted to killing six patients to decrease her workload.  A 2015 Ontario coroner’s report that examined deaths at long-term care facilities, included 13 that were considered homicide in 2013 and 2014.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.