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Canadian Hospital Unveils Assisted Suicide Plans for Kids, Parents Won't Know Until Child Is Dead

Canadian Hospital Unveils Assisted Suicide Plans for Kids, Parents Won't Know Until Child Is Dead

(PHOTO: REUTERS)

Doctors from a Toronto children's hospital recently published policies on physician-assisted suicide for children, revealing that in some cases, parents won't be notified until after the child has died.  

"Usually, the family is intimately involved in this (end-of-life) decision-making process. If, however, a capable patient explicitly indicates that they do not want their family members involved in their decision-making, although health care providers may encourage the patient to reconsider and involve their family, ultimately the wishes of capable patients with respect to confidentiality must be respected," said pediatric doctors at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, administrators and ethicists in a Sept. 21 paper published in the British Medical Journal's J Medical Ethics.  

"The article appears just three months before the Canadian Council of Academies is due to report to Parliament on the medical consensus about extending voluntary euthanasia in circumstances currently forbidden by law," Crux reported. "The Canadian Council of Academies is specifically looking at extending so-called assisted dying to patients under 18 ..."

According to The Catholic Register, the proposed policies listed in the journal "argue that there is no meaningful ethical distinction between a patient choosing to refuse burdensome treatment and accepting an inevitable death versus patients who choose to die by chemical injection before the disease brings on death."

The province of Ontario does not require parents to be involved in a "capable" minor's decision to refuse further treatment, and therefore, "there is no legal reason to require parent involvement in an assisted death," the Register added.

Presently, assisted suicide and euthanasia are only available in Canada to individuals who are aged 18 and older; it has been legal there since 2016.

Bioethicist Bridget Campion said she wasn't surprised by the developments and is concerned about conscience rights for medical providers.

"It's a tough thing to know what to do next under the circumstances," she told the Register. "In my opinion, if we are committed to building a culture of life, forget the legislation. That ship has sailed. There are some things that we absolutely must make sure stay in place — that there can be Catholic health care, that there can be conscientious objection. But, to me, the biggest thing is, 'OK, how do we build a culture of life? How do we build a culture of care?' If we can do that and make it so that people don't want medical assistance in dying, then we will have achieved something."

Campion is a researcher, lecturer and writer with the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute.

But now that the practice is legal, "many practitioners are saying, 'How do we do this?' I'm not surprised at all," she added.

The policy contains a flowchart that doesn't include discussion about assisted suicide with parents until a "reflection period" happens after the child is already dead.

A 2017 survey of 1,050 Canadian doctors revealed that 33 percent of them believe assisted suicide ought to be illegal for minors, while approximately half think "mature" minors should have the option to request it.

"I think that conscientious objection in Canada, unfortunately, hangs by a thread," Deacon Larry Worthen, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada, told Catholic News Agency at the time.

"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.

Pro-life investigative group Live Action described the Med Ethics journal article "sickening."

Earlier this year, Belgium put to death a 9 and an 11 year old. The only other country in the world where the practice is allowed for minors is the Netherlands.

Only a handful of U.S. states allow it; Hawaii recently became the sixth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

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