AFP, published on Monday, December 05, 2022 at 3:34 p.m.
Medical assistance in dying (MAD), legal in Canada since 2016, is currently only available to adults with a “serious and irremediable condition”. However, viral publications claim that “Canada has just approved the euthanasia of depressed children” without the agreement of their parents. This is false, the country has not passed a law saying that. However, the eligibility criteria for the MA are currently being examined. In this context, the request of an association of doctors to open the device – under certain strict and precise conditions, and with parental authorization – to certain adolescents, and even in certain cases to babies, “without prospect of survival”, sparked controversy in the country. Questioned by AFP, the Ministry of Health explained on November 4, 2022 that “the Government of Canada does not immediately plan to modify the minimum age required”. “Canada just approved the euthanasia of depressed children. Tucker Carlson compares this to what the Nazis were doing in Germany in the 1940s – killing the weak…”support publications shared thousands of times on Twitter (1, 2, 3), Telegram (1, 2), Odysee or several blogs since the end of October.
Screenshot taken on 03/11/2022 on Twitter Screenshot taken on 03/11/2022
Some messages are accompanied by an excerpt from a video of Tucker Carlson, star presenter of the American news channel Fox News, whose misleading remarks have already been verified by AFP (1, 2).
The show, which aired on October 26, 2022, shows the presenter next to a montage of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a baby’s hand and the inscription “euthanize them”.
Tucker Carlson claims, facing the camera, that “by March, a new law will allow children to be killed by doctors without their parents’ permission… because they are depressed”.
Screenshot taken from the Fox News website on 03/11/2022
He then gives the floor to Charles Camosy, who cites as a public who can already access euthanasia in Canada “the so-called ‘mature’ children, the homeless, the poor, the disabled, those with chronic pain” and asserts that some would now like to extend it to “newborns”.
“It will happen soon in France, because nobody is mobilizing on these subjects”, are worried about French Internet users.
Very regulated access conditionsFollowing a 2015 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended in June 2016 to legalize, under conditions and for adults, medical assistance in dying (AMM), explains the Canadian government website.
A similar system already existed in Quebec since 2014.
Screenshot taken 05/12/2022 from the Canadian government websiteThis procedure was originally reserved for terminally ill patients. In March 2021, access to MAID was nevertheless expanded. Bill C-7, repealed the eligibility criteria requiring that “natural death of a person is reasonably foreseeable”, increasing the number of eligible people.
But MA is still subject to strict conditions.
In December 2022, to be eligible for medical assistance in dying in Canada, you must be over the age of 18 and have a “serious and irremediable” health problem.
You must also benefit from the Canadian health care system, be able to make decisions about your health by giving your informed consent, not have been subjected to outside pressures and have been informed of the existing possibilities to relieve your suffering, such as palliative care.
The procedure begins with an application for MA, which must be reviewed by at least two independent health professionals. If approved and the patient meets the criteria, they may be offered, in hospital or at home, a lethal injection or a death pill.
As of December 2022, “no article of the law allows minors to benefit from medical assistance in dying, with or without parental consent, because minors are not eligible for MAID under current Canadian law”explained to AFP on November 4 the Canadian Ministry of Health.
To date, people with a problem “serious and irremediable” eligible for MAID, are defined by the Canadian government as those adults suffering from “serious illness, disease or disability”in a “advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed” and feeling “unbearable physical or mental suffering” that cannot be mitigated under conditions deemed “acceptable” by the patient.
Screenshot taken from the Canadian government website on 11/03/2022 On the Canadian Ministry of Health page dedicated to MAID as in the law, it is indicated that if mental illness is the only medical condition that brings a patient to consider medical assistance in dying, then “ he is not eligible to apply for MAID” until March 17, 2023.
“This temporary exclusion gives the Government of Canada and professional health organizations more time to consider how MAID can be provided safely” in case of mental illness, specifies the legislation.
“On the other hand, it is possible to request MAID if a person suffers from a mental illness and other medical problems”, Hélène Guay, a lawyer in Montreal specializing in health law, told AFP on October 31.
“From March 18, 2023, requests for help by people with mental disorders as the only underlying medical condition will be allowed. These requests will still have to be assessed against the criteria and reinforced safeguards of the legislation, in order to ‘establish the admissibility of the person requesting MAID’, the Canadian health ministry told AFP.
“Developments are to be expected in the coming months”, said lawyer Hélène Guay.
Finally, contrary to what is claimed in viral publications, being “poor” is not mentioned anywhere in the law as a criterion for eligibility for the procedure.
Where does this rumor come from?The false claim that Canada passed a law authorizing euthanasia for children without parental consent has spread as the provisions of the law authorizing medical assistance in dying are being reviewed, as required by Canadian law every five years.
The possibility of broadening the eligibility criteria for this system, in particular to include minors, has sparked significant societal debate.
“When medical assistance in dying was legalized in Canada (in 2016), the decision was made to exclude minors from the possibility of receiving it. As the issue is contentious and requires further examination, the Government of Canada commissioned a study on MAID for minors from the Council of Canadian Academies”detailed the Ministry of Health to AFP.
“This study was tabled in the Canadian Parliament in 2018. This topic continues to generate interest and as such, a Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying has been appointed to undertake a review of the Criminal Code provisions MAID and its application, including but not limited to issues relating to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with Disabilities. The Committee is expected to submit its report to Parliament by February 17, 2023“, continued the Ministry of Health.
Professor Louis Roy, inspector in the professional inspection department at the Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ), spoke before this Special Joint Committee on October 7, 2022 in Ottawa. His intervention can be seen here (at 10:02:41).
He reaffirmed the wish, already known to the CMQ since December 2021 as evidenced by this document, to include in the list of persons eligible for MAID certain adolescents deemed “mature”, under the same criteria as for adults, and subject to obtaining parental authorization.
“The College considers that MAID must be included in the list of care required by the state of health to which minors aged 14 to 18 can consent, jointly with the obligation to obtain the consent of the parental authority“, specified the CMQ in December 2021.
The CMQ also wishes since 2021 the opening of the MA to infants from 0 to 1 year old under extremely specific conditions: when “the very bleak prognosis and appalling living conditions in cases of severe malformations or serious polysymptomatic syndromes, annihilating any prospect of relief and survival”.
Screenshot of the CMQ’s opinion This position has sparked considerable controversy in the country, as reported a few days after the intervention of Dr. Louis Roy Radio-Canada in an article entitled “should medical aid in dying be extended to sick children under one year of age?”
The Canadian media cites the point of view of various associations worried about possible abuses if MAID were open to babies.
“Most families of children born with disabilities are told from the outset that their child will somehow not have a good quality of life…Canada cannot not start killing babies when doctors predict there is no hope for them. Far too often predictions are based on discriminatory assumptions about living with a disability”thus estimated on October 11 with the National Post Krista Carr, vice-president of the association Inclusion Canada.
Faced with these criticisms, the College of Physicians of Quebec made a point of re-clarifying its position on October 14, explaining that MAID can be appropriate care in cases of babies under one year old, victims of extreme suffering that cannot be relieved, coupled with very poor prognoses, and affected by severe malformations or serious polysymptomatic syndromes, which annihilate any prospect of survival.”
“This care should be framed by a strict protocol. The College believes that the experience of the Netherlands (Groningen protocol) is a way to explore”, he continued.
“There is no question for the College to administer this care to babies born with a serious handicap, any impairment or mental illness”said the College of Physicians of Quebec to AFP on October 31.
The reflection of the CMQ bears “on children who are born with conditions incompatible with life”he continued, adding that parents “should with the choice to obtain this care for their babies”.
10,000 marketing authorizations administered in 2021 in CanadaThe programme’s third annual report indicates that in 2021, “10,064 cases of medical assistance in dying have been reported in Canada, representing 3.3% of all deaths in the country.”
That year, cancer was the most commonly cited underlying medical condition (65.6%), followed by cardiovascular disorders (18.7%), chronic respiratory diseases (12.4%) and neurological disorders. (12.4%). The average MAID recipient was 76.3 years old.
According to the report, only 219 cases, or 2.2% of all MAID cases, involved people whose natural death was not reasonably foreseeable. Nearly half of them cited underlying neurological disorders.
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