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17 Feb, 2023 19:35

Western nation may offer assisted suicide to children

A parliamentary committee in Canada has recommended extending eligibility for the program to minors
Western nation may offer assisted suicide to children

A panel of Canadian lawmakers has called for the country’s assisted suicide program to be extended to minors, even in cases where their parents object to the decision to end their lives.

The special committee of MPs and senators, which was charged with reviewing Ottawa’s so-called “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) program, issued a series of recommendations this week in Canada’s House of Commons. The report urged the government to amend its law on assisted suicide to make the service available to minors deemed to have “the requisite decision-making capacity.”

Assisted suicide should be available only to “mature minors” whose “natural death is reasonably foreseeable,” the committee said. The government would need to establish standards for assessing a youngster’s capacity to make such a decision, the report added, but the lawmakers offered no specifics on how imminent a person’s death would need to be for the government to help end their life.

The committee also suggested that parents or guardians should be consulted on their child’s suicide decision “where appropriate.” However, Ottawa also should require that “the will of a minor who is found to have the requisite decision-making capacity take priority,” according to the report.

Another recommendation called for the government to “undertake consultations with minors on the topic of MAiD, including minors with terminal illnesses, minors with disabilities, minors in the child welfare system and Indigenous minors.”

Critics of Canada’s MAiD program blasted the panel’s findings. “Unhappy teenagers are such a burden on the welfare state that Parliament believes doctors should be paid to murder them,” podcast host Kevin Michael Grace said.

The committee issued its report after hearing from nearly 150 witnesses, Canada’s Global News reported on Thursday. Many of the witnesses argued that minors are already allowed to make decisions about withholding medical treatment, hastening their death in some cases, and the level of suffering they endure from a terminal illness isn’t a function of age.

More than 30,000 Canadians have died by assisted suicide since it was legalized for people with terminal illnesses in 2016. The program was expanded in 2021 to include adults with serious and chronic medical conditions, even if their malady wasn’t life-threatening. Lawmakers were set this year to consider extending MAiD eligibility to people suffering solely from a mental illness, but Attorney General David Lametti announced the tabling of that bill earlier this month.