Canadian doctors grapple with how to approach assisted dying for young patients

November 5, 2018

Three years after Canada's top court decriminalized doctor-assisted suicide, the federal government is about to wade into an emerging controversy: How to respond to requests from children for medical assistance in dying, or MAID.

Canada's largest children's hospital has already gotten a taste of this thorny issue.

"We had discussed that there may be a time in the future that MAID would be available for patients under the age of 18, or a group called 'mature minors,'" said Dr. Adam Rapoport, director of the Pediatric Advanced Care team at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

"We, as an organization, like to be ready for things that might be coming down the pike."

The possibility that assisted dying could become an option for that demographic will be addressed next month in a report to Parliament from the Canadian Council of Academies. 

The independent research organization was tasked by the federal government two years agoto produce reports on patientswho don't qualify for assisted death under the current law, including patients under age 18.

Rapoport was part of a group of bioethicists, palliative care doctors and others who drafted a preliminary policy on medically assisted dying for the handful of patients at Sick Kids who continue care at the hospital after they turn 18. 

It also explored how the hospital might respond if youth under 18 could choose assisted death.


The group published the article about their "in-progress thinking" in the Journal of Medical Ethics in September. 

Read more: Canadian doctors grapple with how to approach assisted dying for young patients