Hundreds of parents of very ill or handicapped children have talked with a physician about the option of assisted suicide, according to a survey.
The Canadian Paediatric Society found 118 doctors had “exploratory discussions” about assisted suicide – or medical aid in dying (MAID), as it is called – with parents, involving more than 400 children.
The Christian Institute in the U.K. noted that the results come only a year after Canada approved assisted suicide for adults amid warnings that the move would put society on a slippery slope.
Their report noted Kevin Yuill, a lecturer at the University of Sunderland in England, wrote the online magazine Spiked: “Legalizing any form of assisted suicide would be a foot in the door, which will be progressively pried open.”
After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party legalized assisted suicide for adults in June 2016, an independent review was launched to consider allowing it for children.
Doctors said, according to the new survey, they had had discussions with 60 children under the age of 18 in just the last year. There were “explicit requests” delivered to at least nine doctors.
Doctors themselves were not in agreement, with lead author Dawn Davis explaining one-third were opposed to assisted suicide for those under 18 “under any circumstances.”
Belgium became the first nation to approve euthanasia for children in 2014 after introducing the practice for adults in 2002.
Last year, a teen, diagnosed terminally ill in Belgium, became the world’s first child to be legally euthanized.
The Netherlands is the only other country where such assisted suicide is allowed for children.
The survey explained: “Ensuring that newborns, children and youth receive the highest possible standard of care as they are dying is a privilege and a responsibility for physicians and allied professionals. Bringing a thoughtful, respectful and personal approach to every end-of-life situation is an essential and evolving duty of care, and the process should meet each patient’s (and family’s) unique social, cultural and spiritual needs.”
The report said Canadian health care professionals “are increasingly being approached by the parents of ‘never-competent’ infants and children, including those too young to make a reasoned decision, and by youth themselves, to discuss MAID-related issues.”
It said that whether or not children and adolescents can have legal access to assisted suicide is “a complex question that has yet to be fully considered and adjudicated by Canadian society, in parliament and through courts of law.”
“Competency can be assessed in children and adolescents in a variety of medical decision-making scenarios but does not resolve the ethical question of who can or should be able to access MAID.”
About 2,600 Canadian doctors were surveyed, and about 1,050 responded.
“Almost one-half (46 percent) of respondents were in favor of extending the MAID option to mature minors experiencing progressive or terminal illness or intractable pain. Fewer believed access should be extended to children or youth with an intolerable disability (29 percent) or with intolerable mental illness as the sole indication (8 eight). Thirty-three percent of respondents said MAID should not be extended to the mature minor population under any circumstance. Regarding eligibility for MAID, 55 percent of respondents believed that an individual’s capacity was most important, compared with 22 percent who favored a minimum stated age.”