Canadian doctors face questions over assisted suicide, euthanasia for minors

Ottawa, Canada, Nov 2, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Only one year after assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia became legal for adults in Canada, a new study is showing that some of the country’s pediatricians are being faced with questions about the practices for minors.

The study, which surveyed 1,050 doctors and was published by the Canadian Paediatric Society, found that more than ten percent of Canadian pediatricians have had conversations with parents or minors about the option of assisted suicide or euthanasia for terminal patients under the age of 18.

The survey discovered that 60 children explicitly discussed the possibility of assisted suicide with their doctors, and parents of over 400 children also brought up the fatal procedure in discussion with their child’s pediatrician.

Most youths discussing assisted suicide or euthanasia with their physician were between the ages of 14 and 18, and these discussions are much rarer than discussion withs parents. Parents discussing assisted suicide or euthanasia with pediatricians were mostly acting on behalf of children 12 months or younger.

33 percent of the doctors said assisted suicide should remain off limits for all minors, no matter the circumstance.

Half of the doctors ruled positively in allowing “mature minors” to choose physician assisted suicide, although fewer said that they would actually administer the fatal drugs to minor patients.

“I didn’t think that there would be that much support for it,” said Dr. Dawn Davies, a pediatric palliative care physician and chairwoman of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s bioethics committee, according to the AP.

However, the study also noted that more emphasis should be placed on palliative care, particularly for minors, and should be made more accessible across the board.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia were legalized by the Canadian Senate 44-28 in June 2016. However, it was met with pushback from some lawmakers, who underscored their concerns over euthanasia for minors and additionally said the legislation would conflict with conscious protections for medical institutions.

“I think that conscientious objection in Canada, unfortunately, hangs by a thread,” stated Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, in an earlier interview with CNA.

“There are many of us fighting for this right, but the concern is that in a society where killing a patient is seen to be a compassionate and merciful act, then those who refuse to do it are by definition uncompassionate and uncharitable,” he continued.

Not long after the Canadian bill’s passage, national leaders began to explore the possibility of extending the lethal procedure to minors.

Belgium and The Netherlands are the only other countries in the world that have legalized child euthanasia.

A video released in 2016, which features Belgian doctors, lawyers, and family members, highlighted the dangers of euthanasia, saying that it threatens vulnerable patients, undermines the dignity of life, and can also compromise doctor-patient relationships.

Additionally, legalizing physician assisted suicide has led to cases of abuse, in which families place pressure on patients to kill themselves. In Amsterdam, an 80-year old woman was held down as she fought lethal injection.  

As of August, more than 630 Canadian individuals have killed themselves under the new assisted suicide and euthanasia law.

The law also ordered a separate review surrounding the possibility of assisted suicide and euthanasia for patients under 18, which could potentially include newborn babies with disabilities.

This review is currently being researched and will be presented to parliament by December 2018.

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