Parliamentary committee recommends: “Minors should be eligible for assisted dying”

TORONTO – Canadian laws on assisted dying “should be extended to include minors”: this is one of the twenty-three recommendations made by the parliamentary committee charged with presenting a report to the House of Commons on the extension of MAID, the Medical Assistance in Dying. 

After hearing almost 150 testimonies and examining more than 350 briefs on MAID, the special joint committee of MPs and senators therefore concluded that minors – under the age of 18 – deemed to have a adequate decision-making capacity (so-called “mature minors”) should be eligible for assisted dying because “MAID eligibility should not be denied on the basis of age alone”.

At the same time, however, the committee recommends that the federal government appoint a group of independent experts to evaluate the provisions of the Criminal Code for assisted dying of “mature minors” and specifies that in any case access to assisted dying for minors should be limited to those “whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable”.

Conservative members of the committee, however, offered a dissenting opinion, saying they could not endorse such a recommendation. “The issues relating to the decision-making capacity of mature minors remain unresolved – they said – and as long as these issues remain unresolved, it would be irresponsible for the Liberal government to go ahead with any expansion of MAID to mature minors”.

There are twenty-three recommendations for expanding MAID eligibility. One calls on the Liberal government to improve access to palliative care and increase financial support for people with disabilities: without more financial support and better access to social support, the report says, “people with disabilities could see the MAID as a way to alleviate suffering due to poverty and lack of services”.

Another recommends better involvement of indigenous communities and people with disabilities in how the assisted dying program works: the federal government should convene a panel of experts to “study and report on the needs of people with disabilities” in relation to dying assisted.

Regarding the Liberal government’s plans to delay expanding medical aid eligibility in the event of death for Canadians whose only condition is a mental disorder, the committee expressed support: Members of Parliament should therefore approve a bill during the current legislative session to delay this expansion until March of 2024, to allow the federal government to develop appropriate standards of practice for physicians and nurses administering MAID to complex cases involving mental illness. The recommendation is to create another joint parliamentary commission five months earlier “in order to verify the degree of preparation achieved for a safe and adequate application of the MAID”.

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