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In Toronto, parents may no longer have a say in child euthanasia



J-P Mauro - published on 10/05/18

The procedures are in place pending a vote from Parliament.

Doctors from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children have released their policies and procedures for medically assisting death in terminal child patients. In some cases, the children will be allowed to specify that they don’t want their parents informed or consulted until after their death.

The article detailing the policies was released in the British Medical Journal’s J Med Ethics, was backed by the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics. It comes just months before the Canadian Council of Academies is set to report to Parliament about extending Euthanasia practices. Crux Now reports:

The Canadian Council of Academies is specifically looking at extending so-called assisted dying to patients under 18, psychiatric patients and patients who have expressed a preference for euthanasia before they were rendered incapable by Alzheimer’s or some other disease.

A flow chart was included to outline how medically-induced death would occur at the hospital known as SickKids, but the authors of the article only mention an explanation to the parents after the procedure, in the “Reflection Period.”

With an emphasis placed on patient confidentiality, even if the child is under 18 and legally a minor, doctors and nurses are supposed to respect the wishes of the patient. Legally, in Ontario, a child does not need parental consent to refuse treatment, therefore, the SickKids policy believes, there is no reason to require parental consent for assisted death.

The authors wrote:

“Usually, the family is intimately involved in this (end-of-life) decision-making process,” they write. “If, however, a capable patient explicitly indicates that they do not want their family members involved in their decision-making, although health care providers may encourage the patient to reconsider and involve their family, ultimately the wishes of capable patients with respect to confidentiality must be respected.”

As euthanasia is adopted by more and more areas of the world, opponents to the movement are focusing on conscience protection for religious institutions and individual clinics. Bridget Campion, lecturer and writer with the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, did not seem surprised by the article, she said:

“It’s a tough thing to know what to do next under the circumstances. This is now legal,” she said. “In my opinion, if we are committed to building a culture of life, forget the legislation. That ship has sailed. There are some things that we absolutely must make sure stay in place – that there can be Catholic health care, that there can be conscientious objection. But, to me, the biggest thing is, ‘OK, how do we build a culture of life? How do we build a culture of care?’ If we can do that and make it so that people don’t want medical assistance in dying, then we will have achieved something.”

Campion went on to suggest that while the article was written in an effort to improve patients’ rights and confidentiality, it may be in the best interest of society to explore how these procedures might affect the community as a whole.

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