Despite facing pushback, a euthanasia advocacy group in Canada is continuing its efforts to have Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) eligibility expanded for children as young as 12.
Since 2021, Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC), a national charity claiming to be dedicated to “improving the quality of dying,” has been lobbying the Canadian government to “amend the existing age requirement of 18 years of age to extend to persons at least 12 years of age and capable of making decisions with respect to their health.”
The push came shortly after Bill C-7 received Royal Assent on March 17, 2021, resulting in the expansion of physician-assisted suicide in Canada to individuals whose death was not “reasonably foreseeable,” including those suffering from mental illness.
The Parliamentary Review of the Bill included “advance requests for MAID, the state of palliative care,” the “protection of people living with disabilities,” and “eligibility for MAID of mature minors.”
In a blog post summarizing “the issues of the Parliamentary Review,” DWDC adds that it believes eligibility for MAID should extend to “mature minors” who have a debilitating or incurable medical diagnosis.
“DWDC acknowledges that Canadian society will likely expect a minimum age for mature minors in the legislation, even though the emphasis at common law is on capacity and maturity and not chronological age,” reads the post.
“For this reason, DWDC asks that Parliament amend the existing age requirement of 18 years of age to extend it to persons at least 12 years of age and capable of making decisions with respect to their health. As with adults, there should be a presumption of capacity for these minors.”
In addition to experts sounding the alarm on the potential implications expanding assisted suicide for minors as young as 12 may have, many online were quick to point out that this extension could blur the lines of other age of consent laws.
While the DWDC’s calls to drop the age of eligibility for MAID have been available since 2021, discussion was renewed this week after screenshots from DWDC’s website began circulating on X (formerly Twitter), prompting outrage and confusion.
Gender-critical commentator Serena Partrick stressed that the advocacy group’s push for children to access MAID was a slippery slope.
“Canada is lost,” she wrote. “And if you legislate for this, how on Earth do you hold onto any of your age of consent laws?”
Continuing, she added: “Once a child can choose to die, surely there is no argument to be made against them choosing anything else? What kind of country does this to its children?”
“If kids can be considered mature enough to choose death/irreversible medical treatment, I’m guessing [the] next step will be to reduce/remove age of consent,” pointed out another X user by the handle @RunchieC.
Others noted that referring to children as “mature minors” had sinister implications on its own:
The debate surrounding further expansions of Canada’s already-liberal MAID program have been contentious, with some, such as retired physician and member of DWDC’s Clinicians Advisory Council Dr. David Amies, claiming it is “arbitrary and illogical” to ban children from accessing MAID.
Others, like Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, interim chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said that Canada needed to put more emphasis on living with dignity over dying with dignity.
“Parliament needs to address ‘failures’ in the current regime for Canadians to see ending their life as the only option,” explained Malischewski to Global News.
“In particular, (Parliament) needs to focus on the many worrying accounts of individuals who have accessed or are considering accessing MAID because Canada is failing to fulfill their fundamental human rights,” she added. “In an era where we recognize the right to die with dignity, we must do more to guarantee the right to live with dignity.”