Thursday February 25, 2016

Doctor-assisted death should be available to children, advocates argue

It's a question many would rather not ask, but others believe must be confronted: should children be given the right to physician-assisted death?

It's a question many would rather not ask, but others believe must be confronted: should children be given the right to physician-assisted death? (Shaun Best/Reuters)

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Mature minors and the mentally ill should not be excluded from the right to doctor-assisted death, according to a special committee of MPs and senators.

A 70-page report tabled Thursday, called "Medical Assistance in Dying: A Patient-Centred Approach," also says Canadians should have the right to make an "advance request" for medical aid in dying after being diagnosed with certain debilitating, but not necessarily terminal, conditions.

Up until now the discussion has focused almost exclusively on adults. But some child rights advocates are calling for the law to allow minors access as well.

Where should Canada draw the line when it comes to children and doctor-assisted death? And what are the ethical implications of giving children access to it?

  • Dr. Stephen Liben is the Director of Montreal Children's Hospital Pediatric Palliative Care Program. In Quebec, the government already has laws surrounding physician-assisted death, and access does not extend to minors.
  • Lee Ann Chapman is the vice president of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child, and she urged the parliamentary committee to allow children access to physician-assisted death.
  • Dr. Eugene Bereza is director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the McGill University Health Centre. He was also part of the Quebec government's working group on its law respecting end of life care.

Oliphant outlines report on assisted dying3:31

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.