Pediatricians are being increasingly asked about physician-assisted death by both minors and their parents, a new survey finds.
As the right to choose to die becomes more widely protected in the US, the issues faced by Canada – which has been more progressive on the matter – may act as bell weathers for what’s to come in America.
The survey was conducted in the aftermath of the June 2016 passage of a bill legalizing medically assisted death for adults in Canada, and found that nearly half of pediatricians believed that ‘mature minors’ should be afforded the same right if they are terminally ill.
Of the responding doctors, 11 percent had had discussions about helping minor patients die.
A new study from the Canadian Pediatric Society found that more and more minors and parents are asking about medically assisted death in the wake of the country’s legalization for the practice in June 2016
According to the more than 1,000 doctors surveyed, 60 children at least discussed the possibility of medically assisted death with their doctors, and the parents of more than 400 sick children raised the issue.
Medically assisted death became legal in Canada for patients who are terminally ill and suffering beyond what they can tolerate in June 2016. The bill, C-14, also called for a review of how it should be applied to ‘mature minors,’ as well as a review of palliative care in Canada.
In the US, physician assisted suicide is now legal for adults in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Washington DC and with a court ruling in Montana. Similar laws are under review in a handful of additional states.
In the majority of the country, the practice is still illegal even for adults, so little research has been done in the US so far.
The new study, published by the Canadian Pediatric Society, continues to press that the quality of palliative care for minors needs to be a high priority.
However, its findings suggest that euthanasia is very much on the minds of sick children and their families.
A total of 17 children under 18 explicitly asked their doctors for assistance in their own deaths, according to the study. Adults were inquiring on behalf of their children too; the parents of 91 children asked their children’s doctors to euthanize the children outright.
Although about half of all pediatricians thought that assisted death should be available to mature minors – those under 18, but deemed mentally mature and sound enough to make their own decisions – but far fewer said that they be willing to actually administer life-ending drugs to young patients.
The study found that only 19 percent of the responding doctors were actually willing to take part in such a procedure.
The study applauded and encouraged ‘open and honest’ discussions of medically assisted death for mature minors, or minors that were too young or disabled to make decisions for themselves.
On the other hand, the report recommended that palliative care, especially for minors should be improved and made more accessible, especially to minors. It also suggested that those most closely affected need to be extensively consulted on what the possible impacts of laws allowing medically assisted death for minors would be.