Is Canada Moving Toward Euthanizing Children?

Is Canada Moving Toward Euthanizing Children?

In Canada, legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, also known as MAiD, was legalized in June, 2016. At the time, only people who were at least 18 years old and whose “natural death is reasonably foreseeable” were permitted to let doctors end their lives.

But in October 2017, The Globe and Mail reported that the Council of Canadian Academies had been asked to examine whether the practice of euthanasia could be extended to “mature minors”:

The Liberals have tasked the Council of Canadian Academies, an independent non-profit, with conducting reviews of three complex types of requests: advance directives by those who want to secure MAID before they no longer have the capacity to legally do so; instances where mental illness is the sole underlying medical condition; and requests by mature minors. The council’s findings will be released toward the end of next year.

Concurrently, the Canadian Paediatric society published a study that analyzed the possibility of euthanasia for teens, young children, and newborns. In the abstract for the study, it read:

Although “mature minors” are the only youth currently mandated for further legislative consideration in Canada, the need to examine requests for and attitudes around MAID for minors of all ages remains compelling for two main reasons: Canadian health care professionals are increasingly being approached by the parents of “never-competent” infants and children, including those too young to make a reasoned decision, and by youth themselves, to discuss MAID-related issues.

Results from a Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) survey, discussed below, indicate that parents raise such questions with paediatricians more often than do minors. The discussion of MAID policy in Canada has been framed as much by the issue and context of suffering as by considerations of autonomy. While current legislation clearly prohibits MAID for incapable persons at the request of any other person, it is still possible for parents to request MAID on behalf of their dying child.

It gets worse, as Alex Schadenberg, the Executive Director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition points out, on April 25, the Biennial Provincial Symposium on Paediatric Palliative Care at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto will hold a session titled, “Developing a policy on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for Paediatric Patients.”

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