Council of Canadian Academies report offers no clear direction on Child Euthanasia

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The long-awaited reports from the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) concerning the possible extension of euthanasia to children (mature minors), to incompetent people who made an “advanced request,” and to people for psychological conditions alone, was released on December 12.

Canada legalized euthanasia in June 2016 in response to the Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision in February 2015 that struck down Canada’s laws protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide. Canada’s law limits euthanasia to persons 18 or older.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are now referred to as Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) in Canada.

The report leans toward the position that euthanasia is a medical act and it makes strong comparisons between end-of-life treatment decisions and euthanasia. These comparisons are contentious, considering the fact that parliament legalized euthanasia (MAiD) by creating an exception in the criminal code and not by defining it as a medical act.

The CCA did not offer clear direction concerning the issue of Child euthanasia. The report concluded that:

Many in Canada are grappling with the question about whether to extend MAID to mature minors in a society already exposed to changing ideas about death and dying. Although the Working Group examined a wide range of evidence, it concludes that there are many gaps in knowledge that make it difficult to arrive at definitive answers.

Nonetheless the report does lean towards the side of accepting child euthanasia. It states:

The view that minors are in need of heightened protection is a widely shared concern. Despite research demonstrating that some minors are capable of making critical healthcare decisions, including end-of-life choices, some argue that minors as a group are too vulnerable to be given the ability to request MAID. However, part of protecting potentially vulnerable patients is to ensure that they are listened to. Thus, it has been argued that, rather than denying healthcare choices to groups frequently labelled as vulnerable, society must provide the accommodations to ensure that everyone is protected not only from exploitation, but also from being ignored and excluded.

Canadians are restricted through the criminal code and regulations from participating in many activities based on age. The driving age is 16, the voting age is 18 and in Ontario the drinking age is 19.

Thankfully, the report did not follow the direction of the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto) report. The Sick Kids report stated that there is no difference between end-of-life medical treatment decisions and euthanasia. They then decided that based on their current end-of-life decisions policy, that if the euthanasia law is extended to children, a “mature minor” could die by euthanasia without requiring the consent of the parents.

The most recent data indicates that the number of euthanasia deaths is increasing quickly in Canada. Sadly, the recent Quebec report indicated that the number of euthanasia deaths increased by up to 75% between April 1 and March 31, 2018.

Sign the online petition: I oppose Child Euthanasia

Download the petition to the House of Commons and collect signatures opposing child euthanasia.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.