Ottawa (AFP) - Nearly 2,000 people with incurable diseases were helped to die by a doctor in the first year since Canada legalized medically-assisted suicide, according to a report published Friday.
From the time Ottawa passed the legislation in June 2016 to June 30, 2017, 1,982 people ended their lives in this way, according to Health Canada.
Most had cancer, the agency said.
Extrapolating from the data collected for the first half of 2017, the number of assisted deaths is expected to rise but remain at less than two percent of all deaths nationwide this year -- "consistent with international experience," it said a statement.
Doctor-assisted suicide in Canada is reserved for adults with serious health problems who want to end their suffering, and consists of a lethal injection in hospital or at home.
Days after the law was changed to allow for the practice, it was challenged in court in an attempt to expand it to include Canadians who suffer from a wasting disease but who are not facing imminent death.
These include people suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, locked in syndrome, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease.
Canadian bishops have instructed their clergy to deny religious funerals for deceased persons who chose a doctor-assisted suicide.