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Canadian doctors report more parents asking about assisted suicide for kids

CHILD AND PARENT HANDS

Africa Studio | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 10/28/17

Pediatricians group surveys members and finds some qualified support for expanding the law.

Sixteen months after nationwide legalization of physician-assisted suicide for adults, Canadian pediatricians are increasingly reporting that parents are asking about the option for their children.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company reported that the Canadian Paediatric Society says its members are “increasingly” being asked by parents about the option of seeking physician-assisted suicide for children. The CBC also reported that a survey of doctors found nearly half of respondents support assisted suicide for children with “progressive terminal illness or intractable pain.”

Some 2,600 pediatricians were asked to participate in a survey about inquiries regarding assisted death for minors, both by parents and by children themselves. About 40 per cent responded, the society said Thursday. Thirty-five pediatricians said they had “exploratory discussions” with a total of 60 patients under the age of 18 in the preceding year. Nine pediatricians received “explicit requests” for assisted death from a total of 17 minors. Another 118 pediatricians said they had exploratory discussions about assisted death with the parents of sick children, involving 419 kids in all.

Amazingly, 45 respondents said they had received explicit requests for assisted death from parents, involving a total of 91 children, the CBC reported. More than half of the requests involved a child under a year old.

In a second survey, canvassing almost 2,000 members of the Canadian Pediatric Society, 46 percent of respondents said they would support assisted-death legislation being extended to include so-called “mature minors,” patients under 18 who can understand the nature and consequences of a particular decision.

But Dr. Dawn Davies, a pediatric palliative care physician and chairwoman of the Canadian Pediatric Society’s bioethics committee, said that pediatricians who supported the idea did so with many caveats.

“There was a lot of ‘Yes, but …”‘ she said. “Yes, it could be supported, but there would have to be a lot of oversight.” And 33 percent of the pediatricians who responded said assisted death should not be considered for minors under any circumstances.

When Canada passed assisted-suicide legislation in June 2016, the law ordered an independent review regarding the idea of assisted death for mature minors. The review will be presented to Parliament in December 2018.

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Medicine
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