Canada To Review Eligibility Requirements For Assisted Suicide, Which Could Allow Minors To Seek Death Without Parental Consent
The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was appointed one year ago to review specific requests for assisted suicide, which includes "mature minors" and people suffering from mental illness.
From 2016 to 2021, the number of assisted suicide deaths in Canada reached a total number of 31,664. Unfortunately, the rate at which these types of deaths are occurring increases annually. You would think that euthanasia would only be allowed for individuals who are suffering from an excruciating illness that limits their enjoyment of life, or those who can't find a cure and are facing a foreseeable death. Now, however, people who have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders will soon have the option to voluntarily end their lives.
Even worse, according to Common Sense, Canada will be looking at the possibility of extending the eligibility to “mature minors” who will be allowed to seek out assisted suicide without parental consent. “Next March, the government is scheduled to expand the pool of eligible suicide-seekers to include the mentally ill and 'mature minors,'” Rupa Subramanya writes.
In 2021, the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) was appointed to review requests for medical assistance in dying, including “mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada, and the protection of Canadians with disabilities.” But what is a "mature minor"?
What Is the "Mature Minor" Doctrine?
There is a “common law” in Canada known as the “mature minor” doctrine. Typically, parents have the legal means to obtain medical treatment on behalf of their children, which makes sense, since parts of the brain involved with decision-making aren’t even fully developed until about age 25. Except, the mature minor doctrine – thanks to Canada’s Department of Justice – allows teens to make their own decisions anyway, enabling them to receive medical treatment regardless of their parents’ final say-so. “The mature minor doctrine recognizes that a patient’s comprehension of the nature and consequences of a treatment has determinants beyond age, and that children’s wishes should be granted degrees of deference that reflect their evolving maturity,” says the Canadian Paediatric Society.
But how old is a “mature minor?” Well, certain jurisdictions in Canada sometimes outline a specific age for the doctrine, with most of them presuming the age of 16 to be perfectly capable of making life-altering decisions. Other laws, like New Brunswick’s Medical Consent of Minors Act, allow children under 16 to consent to certain medical treatments.
Dying With Dignity Canada, a charity that defends peoples’ right to have access to assisted suicides, is actively fighting for minors’ right to get euthanized. The organization is asking Parliament to amend the age requirement and extend the eligibility to kids as young as 12. “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,” their website writes. “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.”
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