A Parliamentary committee in Canada has recommended that euthanasia be made available for children under certain conditions, that it be made more easily available for prisoners, and also endorses the implementation of advance directives, whereby a person can request euthanasia for some future time when they might no longer be able to consent to it.
The ‘Report of the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying’, published earlier this month, makes several recommendations to the Canadian Parliament including the expansion of euthanasia to children. At the moment, the euthanasia law in Canada applies to those over 18, but this report recommends that it be extended to children.
The report recommends “[t]hat the Government of Canada amend the eligibility criteria for MAID set out in the Criminal Code to include minors deemed to have the requisite decision-making capacity upon assessment.”
The report makes reference to “mature minors” – a term that is not limited by age. Rather, as the report says, the concept is based on legal precedent that says “an adolescent’s treatment wishes should be granted a degree of deference that is reflective of his or her evolving maturity.”
While the report further recommends that euthanasia should be extended to children with the requisite level of maturity to understand what they are doing, it should apply “to those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable.”
However, it also recommends that parents only be consulted “where appropriate”, and that the decision of the ‘mature minor’ “ultimately take(s) priority”.
“It is inappropriate for the government to consider these radical expansions to the euthanasia law”
In addition to the extension of euthanasia and assisted suicide to children, the report also recommends that these procedures be made as readily available to prisoners as to those who are not in prison.
The authors of the report also recommend the implementation of advance directives “following a diagnosis of a serious and incurable medical condition, disease, or disorder leading to incapacity”.
Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, commented “The recommendations being put forth by [the committee] would give Canada the most permissive euthanasia law in the world. Given the current state of Canada, where vulnerable people continue to be pressured to euthanasia on a frequent basis, it is inappropriate for the government to consider these radical expansions to the euthanasia law. There should instead be a greater focus on how governments in Canada can help people who may be feeling that their life is not worth living.”
Over 10,000 people died from euthanasia in Canada in 2021
According to the latest report on Medical Assistance in Dying from Health Canada, 10,064 Canadians ended their lives by assisted suicide or euthanasia in 2021. This figure represents 3.3% of all deaths in Canada and is an increase of 32.4% from the 2020 figures.
A total of 31,664 people have ended their lives by assisted suicide or euthanasia in Canada since legislation making it legal was passed in 2016.
1 in 5 cite loneliness as a reason to want to die
The report states that 86.3% gave the loss of the ability to engage in meaningful activities as among the main reasons for wanting to end their life. Additionally, 83.4% said the loss of the ability to perform activities of daily living was a reason for wanting to end their lives.
57.6% cited inadequate pain control or concern about pain, although the report does not distinguish between those who actually experienced pain they could not control and those who were concerned about pain that they did not actually experience.
17.3% of people also cited “isolation or loneliness” as a reason for wanting to die. In 35.7% of cases, patients believed that they were a “burden on family, friends or caregivers”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “These recommendations are part of the almost inevitable expansion of an already extremely bad and permissive law”.