Canada is considering allowing terminally ill children to end their lives through assisted suicide, prompting outrage from critics, who called the plan “horrible.”
This month, a Canadian parliamentary committee recommended that “mature minors” should be able to euthanize themselves, even without parental consent, through Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) program if their deaths are “reasonably foreseeable.”
Canada’s government should “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,” stated the much-anticipated report from the Special Joint Committee on MAiD.
Parents must be consulted during the assessment for their child’s assisted suicide, but the “will of the minor” will “ultimately take priority,” the report recommended.
The House of Commons will discuss the report over the next few months.
The law could be changed as soon as this year to include terminally sick and disabled kids.
In the meantime, critics are skewering the proposal.
“I think it’s horrible,” Amy Hasbrouck of the anti-MAiD group Not Dead Yet told The Daily Mail.
“Teenagers are not in a good position to judge whether to commit suicide or not,” she added. “Any teenagers with a disability, who’s constantly told their life is useless and pitiful, will be depressed, and of course they’re going to want to die.”
Another advocate said Canada has been on a “slippery slope” to rampant assisted suicide since 2016, when the law took effect.
“We said we were going to have safeguards and guardrails, but the next government can simply open it up further by making a decision — and that’s exactly what’s happening,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
About 10,000 adults ended their lives in 2021 through MAiD, according to Canada’s health department. That number has increased each year since 2016, when just over 1,000 people committed suicide through the program.
Conservative committee members dissented in the report, saying they do not support minors being permitted to make the decision to end their lives. One of the most significant issues is the “decision-making capacity” of children, whose brains are not fully developed, they pointed out, not to mention the practical challenges to assessing an individual child’s maturity.
“So long as these issues remain unresolved, it would be irresponsible for the Liberal government to move ahead with any expansion of MAID for mature minors,” Conservative members of the panel said. “Minors are a uniquely vulnerable group, having regard for their level of cognitive development.”
The committee also heard from witnesses who pointed out that children are vulnerable to external pressure and influence. Witnesses also pointed out that children are already permitted to halt their own treatment, which can mean they die sooner.
Back in November, a Canadian man went viral online when he said he was considering committing assisted suicide through MAiD because he feared he would soon be homeless. The 54-year-old lives with agonizing chronic back pain due to an accident several years ago.
However, after strangers who were moved by his story donated more than $60,000 to help him, he changed his mind.
“I’m a different person,” he told a Canadian outlet. “The first time we spoke, I had nothing but darkness, misery, stress and hopelessness. Now I have all the opposite of those things.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.