Canadian Children May be Euthanized Without Parental Consent

International   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Feb 21, 2023   |   10:59AM   |   Ottawa, Canada

A report by the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (AMAD) was tabled in the House of Commons on February 15 calling for a drastic expansion of euthanasia (MAiD) in Canada. Among other recommendations, the report recommends that euthanasia be expanded to include children “mature minors.”

Recommendation 19 in the report states:

That the Government of Canada establish a requirement that, where appropriate, the parents or guardians of a mature minor be consulted in the course of the assessment process for MAID, but that the will of a minor who is found to have the requisite decision-making capacity ultimately take priority.

This means that parents or guardians may or may not be consulted, in the euthanasia death of a child that is deemed capable of decision-making.

To understand Recommendation 19 better we to go back to the policy developed by the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto on euthanasia for “mature minors” that was published as a report in the Journal of Medical Ethics in September 2018.

According to an article by Sharon Kirkey published by Sun Media, on October 9, 2018; the ethicists at the Children’s Hospital believe that there is no difference between killing someone and letting them die. Kirkey reported:

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The working group said it wasn’t convinced that there is a meaningful difference for the patient “between being consensually assisted in dying (in the case of MAID) and being consensually allowed to die (in the case of refusing life-sustaining interventions).”

Sick Children’s hospital draft policy applies the same “ethics” for mature minors making medical decisions as making death decisions. Most Canadian provinces allow mature minors to make decisions about their own care, including withdrawing or withholding life support. In Ontario a minor can provide consent for treatment or withdrawal of treatment if they understand the “reasonably foreseeable consequences” of their decision. The Sick Kids’ hospital stated that they encourage minors to involve their families in medical decisions.

Kirkey explained that the Hospitals for Sick Children draft policy would permit children to decide to be killed by euthanasia without the consent of the parents:

The draft policy argues the same rules should apply to MAID since there is no meaningful ethical or practical distinction from the patient’s perspective between assisted dying and other procedures that result in the end of a life, such as palliative sedation (where people sleep until they die) or withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatments.

The draft policy by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children set out what can be expected if Canada permits euthanasia for children (mature minors).

Children who are deemed, by their physician, as competent to make medical decisions will be also deemed competent to decide, with or without the consent of their parents, to die by lethal injection.

Now that the Canadian government is considering child euthanasia and euthanasia of incompetent persons who requested death in an advanced directive, the requirement to consent to die has become only an option.

Every time a door is opened to new reasons for killing it always leads to another door. Opening the door to child euthanasia also opens the door to euthanasia without consent. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and you can read his blog here.