Euthanasia in Canada: Federal Leverage, Provincial Innovation, and Palliative Care

Euthanasia in Canada: Federal Leverage, Provincial Innovation, and Palliative Care


In 2010, Canadians older than 65 represented slightly more than 14% of the population, yet they consumed 45% of provincial and territorial government health care dollars (Canadian Institute for Health Information [CIHI], 2012). While CIHI’s National Health Expenditure Trends show consumption has been growing slowly, more importantly, it is growing consistently. Due to the aging of baby boomers, the largest demographic in Canada, in the near future the health care system will have to cope with a senior population that is larger than all other age groups combined, a challenge that has never been met before (CIHI, 2012). One consequence is that there will be a greater number of people vying for limited palliative care beds in insured hospitals. Having foreseen this problem, the Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby’s authoritative 2002 report tenaciously advocated for an expansion of public health insurance coverage to benefit palliative home care, catastrophic prescription drugs, and post-hospital home care (Canada. Parliament, 2002).

Due to the federal involvement in previous efforts to pass laws similar to Quebec’s, the issue of euthanasia – hotly debated in mass media as well as political circles – is a fascinating embodiment of the persistent power struggle between Ottawa and the provinces, especially in the realm of health care decision-making and accountability. Moreover, this issue presents the opportunity to examine whether the historical precedent will persist – especially after the institution of the Canada Health Act – of provinces individually undertaking innovative health reforms without national backing, yet prove so popular and successful that they are eventually adopted by the rest of the country with federal support to boot

Link to the full article: Full Article

Brittany Sigler is currently finishing her last semester of her B.A. in Environment with a concentration in the ecological determinants of health in society while working as a research assistant in an epidemiology lab and volunteering with Healthy McGill’s mental health peer educator team. In the fall, she is very excited to be beginning her Master’s in Public Health with a focus on Maternal and Child Health, at an as yet undecided school! Her ultimate goal would be to eliminate disparities in access to care among disadvantaged inner-city children in high-income countries.

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