Doctors in Canada are increasingly receiving inquiries from children, teenagers and parents about accessing medically assisted suicide for minors, just a year after the practice became legal for adults.
A study conducted by the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP) has found that more than 10 percent of doctors have had conversations with parents or minors about assisted suicide for terminal patients under the age of 18.
The findings revealed that a total of 118 out of 1,050 pediatricians had conversations about medical assistance in dying (MAID) with a total of 419 parents, with most of the minors in question under the age of 13.
As many as 45 doctors said that they had they had explicit MAID requests from 91 parents. Half of those requests reportedly involved infants who were less than a month old. Thirty-five doctors had conversations about the subject with 60 minors, while nine pediatricians received explicit requests from 17 minors.
Dr. Dawn Davies, the lead author of the survey, noted that pediatricians are divided on the issue.
A third of the respondents said that they were opposed to MAID for minors under any circumstances. Half of the doctors were in favor of allowing "mature minors" to choose physician-assisted suicide, but fewer said they would actually administer the fatal drug to minors.
According to Davies, some of the families who inquire about access to MAID for minors include those with brain-damaged children who cannot breathe on their own; those with children who have neuro-degenerative diseases that attack their body and brain; and those with teenagers who have advanced cancer who choose to end their lives rather than fight the disease.
Belgium, which legalized euthanasia for adults in 2002, became the first country to legalize the practice for minors in 2014.
Last year, a 17-year-old who was deemed to be terminally ill and in the final stages of life became the world's first minor to be legally euthanized.
In 2016, Belgian doctors, lawyers, and family members were featured in a video highlighting the possible dangers of euthanasia.
The video warned that euthanasia threatens vulnerable patients, undermines the dignity of life, and can also compromise doctor-patient relationships.
As of August, more than 630 Canadians have died by medical assistance since the practice became legal. A legislation has ordered a separate review about the possibility of legalizing the practice for minors, which could potentially include babies with disabilities.
According to Catholic News Agency, the review, which is currently being researched, is expected to be presented to the parliament by December 2018.