Only two years out from the legalization of assisted suicide in Canada, the Liberal government is already searching for ways to expand access to these so-called “services,” and to do so have asked the Council of Canadian Academies to create a report detailing a way forward. Three key issues are being considered, including euthanasia for those suffering with mental illness, those who wish to produce an “advanced directive” asking a medical professional to kill them after they have potentially lost the mental capacity to request it themselves, and euthanasia for children—currently being referred to as “mature minors.”
Michael Cook laid out the state of the discussion over at BioEdge, noting that a number of Canadian pediatricians and bio-ethicists have laid out the case for supporting child euthanasia in the Journal of Medical Ethics, framing Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) as a fundamental part of palliative care and presenting the so-called right to be killed as a fundamental one:
it is wrong to force a person to live in circumstances of unendurable and irremediable suffering and … the wishes of capable patients should be respected within legal limits, especially in such an intimate matter as how they choose to die. Persons, in other words, have a right to life, not a duty to live …
Further, Cook notes, several horrifying conclusions are being reached—including assertions that euthanasia should not be treated differently than other medical procedures, but simply accepted as routine. This includes the specter of children being offered euthanasia without the knowledge of their parents—and potentially even euthanized without parental consent or even parental knowledge:
If MAID is essentially a normal medical procedure, it follows that there is no need for “special procedures for managing communication, confidentiality and capacity assessment”. One consequence of this is that doctors should be proactive in suggesting euthanasia to children for they have an obligation to inform patients of their healthcare options.
What about a young person’s capacity for consent? In Ontario, “young people can be and are found capable of making their own medical decisions, even when those decisions may result in their death”. This is not universally accepted in Canada, so it may be necessary to tweak the law.
How about the role of parents? What if a young person requests MAID but their parents object? The authors argue that if a young person is capable of making their own medical decisions, there is no reason why parents have to be informed. “If we regard MAID as practically and ethically equivalent to other medical decisions that result in the end of life, then confidentiality regarding MAID should be managed in this same way.”
Essentially, these doctors are claiming that young people, who do not have the right to vote or buy cigarettes, should be given the right to ask a doctor to kill them, because perhaps “we regard MAID as practically and ethically equivalent to other medical decisions.”