Pro-life groups and disability advocates are aghast after a prominent medical body told parliament that severely ill or malformed infants should have access to euthanasia. They say it is indistinguishable from infanticide.
“The concept of euthanizing infants, also known as infanticide, is very different than killing competent adults by euthanasia,” Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the London, Ontario-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told CNA Oct. 12. “Infants are unable to ask to be killed and they are unable to consent to their death.”
Dr. Louis Roy, from the Collège des médecins du Québec, or Quebec College of Physicians, on Oct. 7 addressed the House of Commons’ Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying, The National Post reports. Roy said medical assistance in dying, which includes both euthanasia and assisted suicide, can be appropriate for infants born with “severe malformations” and “grave and severe symptoms” where their “prospect of survival is null, so to speak.”
The Collège des médecins du Québec licenses medical professionals and sets other medical standards in Canada's largest province.
Inclusion Canada, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, said it was alarmed by the comments.
“Most families of children born with disabilities are told from the start that their child will, in one way or another, not have a good quality of life,” Krista Karr, the group’s executive vice president, told the National Post.
“Canada cannot begin killing babies when doctors predict there is no hope for them. Predictions are far too often based on discriminatory assumptions about life with a disability,” she said.
CNA contacted the Collège des médecins du Québec and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for comment but did not receive a response by publication.
The Collège des médecins du Québec has previously suggested euthanasia or assisted suicide for teenage minors as well as infants.
“(F)or these little human beings who suffer unnecessarily, medical assistance in dying framed by a strict protocol can be appropriate care,” the group said in a French-language December briefing.
The medical body suggested the killing procedure for those under age one when they have “extreme suffering that cannot be soothed, coupled with (a) very dark prognosis.” It should be considered when they face “appalling living conditions in cases of severe malformations or severe multi-symptomatic syndromes, annihilating any prospect of relief or survival.”
Schadenberg said his group, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, “opposes all killing by euthanasia.” He said that once requirements for consent have been removed, “the door opens to many more deaths of people who are deemed to be ‘suffering’ or too costly to care for,” he said.
“If Canada approves euthanasia of infants, as has been done in the Netherlands through the Groningen Protocol, that will then open the door to euthanasia of other people who are not able to ask to be killed or consent to their death, such as people with dementia,” Schadenberg said.
The December briefing from the Collège des médecins du Québec describes the Groningen Protocol of the Netherlands as “an avenue worth exploring.”
For minors aged 14-18, the protocol recommends that assisted suicide be included as offered care to which the minor can consent, jointly with parental authority, provided they meet other eligibility criteria.
Canada has already expanded legal euthanasia and assisted suicide.
In 2021 Canadian lawmakers approved legislation that expanded legal euthanasia and assisted suicide to the mentally ill. The legislation is set to take effect in March 2023.
The new law was written in response to a 2019 Quebec Superior Court decision that ruled it was a human rights violation to limit assisted suicide and euthanasia to people with “reasonably foreseeable” deaths.
It will allow for a person to seek legal euthanasia or assisted suicide even if mental illness is their sole underlying condition. The change prompted debate over whether a doctor may reasonably say that patients with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder have realistic prospects of recovery, and debate over whether they have the ability to consent to end their life.
Canada’s Catholic bishops strongly opposed the 2021 legislation.
“Our position remains unequivocal. Euthanasia and assisted suicide constitute the deliberate killing of human life in violation of God’s Commandments; they erode our shared dignity by failing to see, to accept, and accompany those suffering and dying,” Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, then-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an April 9, 2021 letter.