Canada lawmakers criticized for looking at offering euthanasia to CHILDREN

EXCLUSIVE: Canada lawmakers looking at offering euthanasia to CHILDREN are accused of telling sick kids ‘your life isn’t worth living’ by campaigner whose son died of cancer

  • Lawmakers in Canada are considering whether to open medical assistance in dying (MAID) to children
  • Mike Schouten, an activist whose son died of cancer this year, said the highly-controversial policy would tell children that doctors are ‘giving up’ on them
  • Canada has some of the loosest assisted dying laws in the world and from next spring, people with mental illnesses will be able to request euthanasia
  • Relaxed laws have seen MAID cases surge ten-fold in five years to 10,000 in 2021
  • ‘We have slid down this slippery slope incredibly quickly,’ Mr Schouten told DailyMail.com 

Relaxing euthanasia laws in Canada so children can be offered assisted dying would tell sick young people their lives are ‘not worth living’, a campaigner has warned.

Lawmakers in Canada are currently considering whether medical assistance in dying (MAID) should be open to ‘mature minors’ who meet certain criteria.

Mike Schouten, an activist whose son Markus died of cancer earlier this year, said the highly-controversial policy would send the message to patients like his son that caregivers are ‘giving up’ on them.

Mr Schouten, director of advocacy for the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) in Canada, warned the criteria for assisted dying has been widened ‘incredibly quickly’ since it became legal in 2016.

His intervention comes amid a fierce debate in Canada about its increasingly relaxed approach to assisted death. More than 10,000 Canadians were euthanized in 2021 alone, up tenfold in five years.

Mike Schouten, pictured left, with his late son, Markus, and wife Jennifer. Under changes that could be made to euthanasia law in Canada, Markus would have been eligible for MAID after his cancer diagnosis. His father said offering children euthanasia sends a message that their life isn't worth living and caregivers have 'given up' on them

Mike Schouten, pictured left, with his late son, Markus, and wife Jennifer. Under changes that could be made to euthanasia law in Canada, Markus would have been eligible for MAID after his cancer diagnosis. His father said offering children euthanasia sends a message that their life isn’t worth living and caregivers have ‘given up’ on them

In a series of shocking cases around MAID in Canada: 

From March 2023, patients with mental health issues but no qualifying physical ailment will be able to request MAID if doctors consider their condition ‘intolerable’.

A parliamentary committee is also looking at whether children deemed to be ‘mature minors’ should be offered assisted dying.

Mr Schouten, who spent several years lobbying against the expansion of euthanasia laws before his son’s diagnosis, told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s only been six years and we’re at the point where people with mental illness will be able to avail themselves of it, people with disabilities are already allowed to avail themselves of it.

‘Now we’re discussing whether or not children, minors, are going to be able to avail themselves of it. We have slid down this slippery slope incredibly quickly.’

He added: ‘People are requesting MAID because they can’t afford rent, or they can’t afford basic medications for knee pain, or joint pain, things like that.

‘Instead, they’re [thinking], it’s easier to die than get the proper medication or help that I want, so I’m going to request MAID – and those requests are being granted.

‘And that’s, I think, the part that is really causing a lot of alarm.’

Mr Schouten made an impassioned plea to Canada’s parliament on November 25 urging them not to make children eligible for MAID.

MAID became legal in Canada in 2016. Since then, the rules around who is eligible have been relaxed several times - and rates have increased tenfold to around 10,000 cases in 2021

MAID became legal in Canada in 2016. Since then, the rules around who is eligible have been relaxed several times – and rates have increased tenfold to around 10,000 cases in 2021

A parliamentary committee in Canada is considering whether MAID should be offered to children. Mr Schouten and his wife, Jennifer, gave a powerful testimony arguing against such a move by drawing on their own experience of their son Markus's fight with terminal cancer

A parliamentary committee in Canada is considering whether MAID should be offered to children. Mr Schouten and his wife, Jennifer, gave a powerful testimony arguing against such a move by drawing on their own experience of their son Markus’s fight with terminal cancer

His son, Markus, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in February 2021 and died just 15 months later, on May 29 2022, aged 18.

Markus was an ambitious young man who was working towards his dream of launching his own landscape business. In November 2020, he joined a gym with his friends but picked up a shoulder injury after a few sessions.

The pain didn’t go away and an X-Ray revealed damage that ultimately led to his cancer diagnosis.

He underwent 20 rounds of chemotherapy and 25 rounds of radiation therapy, along with several surgeries, before it was decided to end treatment for a cure and focus instead on quality of life care.

Under changes that could be made to euthanasia law in Canada, Markus would have been eligible for MAID.

Markus Schouten was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in February 2021 and died just 15 months later, on May 29 2022, aged 18. His father said the offer of MAID would have told his son that caregivers had 'given up' on him

Markus Schouten was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in February 2021 and died just 15 months later, on May 29 2022, aged 18. His father said the offer of MAID would have told his son that caregivers had ‘given up’ on him

Appearing with his wife, Jennifer, Mr Schouten told the Canadian parliamentary committee: ‘By giving some minors the right to request, you put all minors and their families in a position where they are obliged to consider.

‘If that happened to Markus, the message he would have heard would have been clear: “We don’t value your life, we don’t think it is worth living and if you want, we can end it for you.”’

In his emotional testimony, he said Markus’s caregivers were focused entirely on ensuring he and their family were able to make the most of every day and share ‘unimaginably beautiful experiences’.

He said the offer of MAID would have been interpreted by his son as: ‘You’re giving up on me.’

Mr Schouten told DailyMail.com: ‘That would send the message that there’s going to come a time when life’s not worth living, and if you don’t think it’s worth living, we don’t either and we’re going to help you end it.’

He said Canada’s rapid move towards widening the criteria of euthanasia was at odds with society’s advancements in helping the needy.

‘Now we are living in a time where while we have made all these strides, we are going to make it easier and easier and easier for people who have suicidality and those expressions towards ending their life, we’re simply affirming that and saying, you’re right, your life isn’t worth living and we’re going to help you end it.’

Markus Schouten was able to spend his final days surrounded by friends and family in a hospice. His father, Mike, told DailyMail.com that carers were dedicated to ensuring Markus was able to enjoy their time together - something he thinks would have been different if they were offered MAID

Markus Schouten was able to spend his final days surrounded by friends and family in a hospice. His father, Mike, told DailyMail.com that carers were dedicated to ensuring Markus was able to enjoy their time together – something he thinks would have been different if they were offered MAID

Markus Schouten was able to spend his final days surrounded by friends and family in a hospice. His father, Mike, told DailyMail.com that carers were dedicated to ensuring Markus was able to enjoy their time together - something he thinks would have been different if they were offered MAID

Markus Schouten was able to spend his final days surrounded by friends and family in a hospice. His father, Mike, told DailyMail.com that carers were dedicated to ensuring Markus was able to enjoy their time together – something he thinks would have been different if they were offered MAID

Mr Schouten said some of Canada’s lawmakers seem ‘intent on removing any safeguards’ around MAID with the view that ‘whoever wants to do it for whatever reason ought to be able to’.

During the parliamentary hearing, committee member Luc Thériault of the Bloc Québécois party, suggested it was the role of government ‘to ensure that one has the option, the opportunity to exercise one’s free choice’ in assisted dying, even as a child.

Liberal MP René Arseneault said children ‘become mature because of their illness or disease and being in and out of hospitals throughout their lives’.

MAID was legalized in Canada in 2016 after a landmark court ruling the year earlier opened up the right to assisted dying.

Originally, patients had to have a terminal condition where death was considered imminent.

A reform – known as Bill C-7 – passed parliament in March 2021, giving the nation one of the most lax assisted suicide law requirements in the world.

It meant someone suffering a disability deemed ‘intolerable’ by at least two doctors was eligible for a medical suicide.

A second, even more controversial, portion of Canada’s assisted suicide bill will take effect on March 17.

It will expand medically assisted suicides even further, allowing for a person whose sole affliction is a mental health condition.

Mr Schouten told DailyMail.com: 'People are requesting MAID because they can’t afford rent, or they can’t afford basic medications for knee pain, or joint pain, things like that. Instead, they’re [thinking], it’s easier to die than get the proper medication or help that I want... And that’s, I think, the part that is really causing a lot of alarm’

Mr Schouten told DailyMail.com: ‘People are requesting MAID because they can’t afford rent, or they can’t afford basic medications for knee pain, or joint pain, things like that. Instead, they’re [thinking], it’s easier to die than get the proper medication or help that I want… And that’s, I think, the part that is really causing a lot of alarm’

Markus Schouten was diagnosed with cancer in February 2021 and died just 15 months later, on May 29 2022, aged 18. Under possible changes to euthanasia law in Canada, he would have been eligible for MAID

Markus Schouten was diagnosed with cancer in February 2021 and died just 15 months later, on May 29 2022, aged 18. Under possible changes to euthanasia law in Canada, he would have been eligible for MAID

The language in the bill is also vague, Gus Alexiou – an expert of physical disabilities – wrote for Forbes earlier this year: ‘It is often said that the “devil is in the details” but, in the case of Canada’s euthanasia law, quite the opposite appears to be true.’

‘Surely, the real danger lies in the vagueness, latitude and sense of laissez-faire brought about by the unique interplay of such an ethically complex and emotive policy area.’

Assisted suicide is legal in 10 jurisdictions in the US: Washington, D.C. and the states of California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico, Maine, New Jersey, Hawaii and Washington.

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