Fact Check

Did Canada Legalize Euthanasia So Parents Can Kill Children With Disabilities?

Misleading articles citing an opinion piece falsely claim that Canada has given a "green light" for parents to "kill disabled children".

Published Nov. 27, 2017

 (Steve Design / Shutterstock.com)
Image Via Steve Design / Shutterstock.com
Canada has legalized euthanasia, enabling parents to "kill disabled children."

On 22 November 2017, the web sites Neon Nettle and YourNewsWire.com (among others) published reports about euthanasia and pediatric patients in Canada, claiming that "a controversial new law" now allows parents to end the lives of children with disabilities:

The legislation extends existing ‘assisted suicide’ laws that have been legal in Canada over a year now, in which adults can legally volunteer to end their own life.

The new legislation passes the responsibility of consensual death for minors over to the parents.

Liftsitenews.com reports: American anti-euthanasia activist Wesley Smith said the results of the survey prove the morally slippery slope that a nation slides down when it agrees that “killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering.”

“Once euthanasia consciousness is unleashed, it never stops expanding,” he wrote in the National Review.

“I guess Robert Latimer–a Canadian farmer who murdered his daughter because she had cerebral palsy–was a visionary,” he added.

Neither site referenced any news reports to support the claims, linking instead to a 26 October 2017 National Review Online speculative editorial: "Canada Child Euthanasia: A Matter of Time?" That opinion piece speculated that legal euthanasia in Canada could eventually be available to minors:

Once euthanasia consciousness is unleashed, it never stops expanding.

The law is still brand new, and yet there is already talk about allowing dementia patients to be killed and a mentally ill patient was euthanized with the permission of a court.

And now, children are in the target range. From the CBC story:

The Canadian Paediatric Society says its members are “increasingly” being asked by parents about the option of seeking medically assisted death for children, while a survey of doctors found nearly half of the respondents supported assisted death for kids with “progressive terminal illness or intractable pain.”

The linked article examines the provisions of euthanasia-related legislation passed in June 2016 (Bill C-14). Among them is a years-long review of youth access to medically assisted dying:

"Medical assistance in dying is something that has been legislated [for adults] and stated [as] needing to be accessible ... but there isn't the same 'oomph' for saying that all Canadians need good access to palliative care," said Dr. Dawn Davies, chair of the society's bioethics committee and a pediatric palliative care physician in Edmonton, in an interview with CBC News.

"Where the issue of medical assistance in dying is ever raised by a child, you know, we would advocate that that should automatically be a referral for pediatric palliative care."

When Bill C-14, the law governing medically assisted dying for adults, was passed in June 2016, it included a requirement that the ministers of justice and health initiate an independent review on whether "mature minors" — youth under age 18 but deemed capable of giving consent — should be eligible for medically assisted death. That review is expected to be presented to Parliament by December 2018.

According to the report, ongoing research includes feedback from pediatricians about discussions with the parents of "critically ill" minors:

In addition to the "mature minors" question, the surveys also found that parents are asking pediatricians about assisted death on behalf of their critically ill children.

Out of the 1,050 pediatricians who responded, 118 said they had exploratory discussions about assisted death with the parents of sick children, involving 419 kids in all.

Forty-five respondents said they had received explicit requests for assisted death from parents, involving a total of 91 children. More than half of the requests involved a child under a year old.

There needs to be "a recognition that parents are making this request not as a self-serving thing," Davies told The Canadian Press. "[Those] children have illnesses where there is really profound suffering."

Canada's Department of Justice's "Questions and Answers" page (archived) about the June 2016 law addresses "mature minors," but not parents:

At this time, not enough is known about the risks and benefits of medical assistance in dying for minors. The trial judge in [a related ruling] found that, to the degree that there was a societal consensus on eligibility for medical assistance in dying, it was limited to mentally competent or capable adults....

However, the Government would also initiate an independent review of the special considerations related to requests for medical assistance in dying by mature minors within 180 days of the legislation receiving Royal Assent.

On 22 November 2017, YourNewsWire.com reported that "Doctors in Canada have been given the green-light to euthanise disabled, sick or dying children under a controversial new law." The "controversial new law" passed in June 2016, not November 2017. Further, that law specifically prohibits even "mature minors" (much less parents) the ability to choose medically assisted death, and it is not by even the most creative interpretation a free pass to euthanize children.


Adl-Tabatabai, Sean.   "Canada Legalizes Euthanasia For Parents To Kill Their Disabled Kids."     YourNewsWire.com.   22 November 2017.

Greenberg, Jay.   "Canada Legalizes Euthanasia So Parents Can Kill Disabled Children."     Neon Nettle.   22 November 2017.

Ireland, Nicole.   "Better Palliative Care Essential As Canada Considers Medically Assisted Death For Youth, Pediatricians Say."     CBC News.   26 October 2017.

Smith, Wesley.   "Canada Child Euthanasia: A Matter of Time?"     National Review.   26 October 2017.

Canada Department of Justice.   "Medical Assistance In Dying: Questions And Answers."     Accessed 27 November 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.