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Doctor assisted deaths could reduce health care spending: Report

Medically assisted deaths could lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings to the health-care system, according to new research.
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Medically assisted deaths could lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings to the health-care system, according to new research. . AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File

WINNIPEG – Medically assisted deaths could lead to tens of millions of dollars in savings to the health care system, according to new research.

In a study posted Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), researchers found medically assisted death could reduce overall spending by $34.7 to $138.8 million annually.

That’s far above the estimated $1.5 to $14.8 million in costs connected with providing a medically assisted death.

“If patients who want medical assistance in dying choose to end their life earlier they may forego a fairly resource intensive period, the final week or final month of their life, where they may otherwise be in a hospital bed and have costs associated with care,” Aaron Trachtenberg, study co-author, said.

The CMAJ report found costs of providing health care for patients nearing the end of life rise substantially.

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In Manitoba researchers concluded patients near the end of life account for just one per cent  of the population but more than 20 per cent of health care costs.

Report authors stressed cost reduction should not be factored in decisions by either the patient or doctor.

Data was compiled from spending figures in Ontario and numbers from Belgium and the Netherlands.