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Canada passed a Medical Assistance in Dying law in 2016, allowing patients to request help from medical professionals to end their lives. The law was updated in March 2021 to expand eligibility.
The law currently applies to people 18 and older.
The question of whether to extend the law to “mature minors” is being studied by a joint commission of Parliament, which is expected to deliver its report in February.
Since Canada passed a 2016 law allowing citizens to seek medical assistance in dying, more than 31,000 people have used the law to end their lives.
Some critics, including disability and human rights advocates, have argued the country’s criteria to qualify for assisted death is too permissive. And recent posts on social media claim that the law now applies to Canadian children, but those claims are getting ahead of the law, officials said.
"They’re now allowing children to seek out medically assisted death in Canada," read text overlaid on a video shared on Instagram on Dec. 3. A man in the video spoke about the country’s Medical Assistance in Dying law and said "they’re doing it to people under 18 … kids." He said children in Canada can qualify if they are considered mature by a doctor.
The Instagram posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying law currently applies only to people 18 and older.
The law was passed by Parliament in 2016, a year after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that parts of the criminal code prohibiting medical assistance in dying were no longer valid.
Under the law, eligible Canadian adults can request medical assistance to die. People seeking the assistance must have a "grievous and irremediable medical condition," according to a government website explaining the law and eligibility. The condition does not have to be fatal.
There are two assistance options available: Doctors or nurse practitioners can directly administer a drug that causes death, or they can provide or prescribe a drug people take themselves.
Canada is one of seven countries where euthanasia — when doctors use medication to end patients’ lives — is legal, The Associated Press reported this year.
In 2021, 10,064 people in Canada used the medical assistance in dying provisions, according to the government’s third annual report on the law. That accounts for 3.3% of all deaths in Canada and represented a 32.4% increase from 2020, the report said.
The law was amended in 2021 to expand who may be eligible, including removing the requirement for a natural death to be "reasonably foreseeable" to be eligible. The changes also expanded access to include people whose only condition is mental illness, but that doesn’t take effect until March 17, 2023.
Through 2021, the total number of deaths reported since the law was enacted in 2016 is 31,664.
The average age of people using medical assistance for their deaths was 76.3 years in 2021, and cancer was the most common underlying condition cited (65.6%), the government report said.
But the law does not apply to people under 18 — at least not yet.
When the law went into effect, "the decision was taken to exclude minors from being eligible to receive it," according to a Dec. 6 statement provided by Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada and the Government of Canada.
Because the issue was contentious, the government commissioned a study, which Parliament later tabled in 2018.
Parliament in March 2021 established a Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying to further study several issues, including whether the law should extend to what it called "mature minors." The committee heard testimony from experts at a hearing Nov. 4.
The committee is expected to present that report to Parliament in February 2023, the statement said.
"The Government of Canada has no immediate plans to alter the minimum age requirement to access (medical assistance in dying), though it will consider the advice of the Special Joint Committee on the matter of mature minors," the statement said.
"Medical assistance in dying for mature minors is not currently legal in Canada," said Sarah Dobec, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada.
There is no set definition of what would be considered a "mature minor," but there is what’s known as the common law "mature minor doctrine," Canada’s Department of Justice said on its website.
According to the site, the doctrine allows for "children who are sufficiently mature to make their own treatment decisions," even though "generally, parents are entitled to make treatment decisions on their children’s behalf." The department adds there is different provincial and territorial legislation that often sets a specific age for children to be "presumed competent" for consent regarding their own medical treatment.
An Instagram post claimed that Canada is "allowing children to seek out medically assisted death."
Canada’s current medical assistance in dying law applies only to people 18 and older.
The issue of extending access to "mature minors" is being studied by a joint commission of Parliament, which will present its report in 2023.
We rate the claim False.
Emailed statement from Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada, Dec. 6, 2022
Email interview with Sarah Dobec, spokesperson for Dying with Dignity, Dec. 6, 2022
Government of Canada, "Medical assistance in dying," accessed Dec. 6, 2022
Government of Canada, "Third annual report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2021," accessed Dec. 6, 2022
Canada Department of Justice, "Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Children’s Participatory Rights in Canada," accessed Dec. 7, 2022
Government of Canada, news release, March 17, 2021
Parliament of Canada, "C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)," accessed Dec. 6, 2022
Parliament of Canada, "Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying" hearing on Nov. 4, 2022
Supreme Court of Canada, "Carter v. Canada," Feb. 6, 2015
Council of Canadian Academies, "Medical Assistance in Dying," Dec. 12, 2018
Canadian Paediatric Society, "Written Submission to the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying," May 2022
The Associated Press, "‘Disturbing’: Experts troubled by Canada’s euthanasia laws," Aug. 11, 2022
Dying with Dignity Canada, "Mature minors and MAID: A deep dive into the issues of the Parliamentary Review," Sept. 15, 2021
CNN, "Physician-Assisted Suicide Fast Facts," May 26, 2022
World Population Review, "Countries Where Euthanasia is Legal / Where Is Euthanasia Legal? 2022"
World Federation Right to Die Societies, "World map" accessed Dec. 7, 2022
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