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Evolving Capacity, Age, and Assisted Dying

Assisted Dying: Alternatives to Arbitrary Minimum Age

The government has announced that they will hold further consultations on the question of the age of eligibility in the new legal framework for assistance in dying. For now, the proposed bill includes age 18 as a minimum age requirement.

The use of arbitrary age limits in many areas of public policy raises questions under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which  respects the evolving capacity of young people to participate in making decisions about their care.  As pointed out in the CCRC submission to the parliamentary committee that studied assisted dying, this principle has been recognized in Canadian court rulings on health care, including recognition of the right of competent young people to decide to end treatment that may result in their death.  CCRC Submission on Physician-assisted Drying.

Hopefully the consultation will be based on the Convention, which Canada has ratified, and focus on what criteria and process would be reasonable in the case of assisted dying, in place of the use of an arbitrary age limit. The CCRC will continue to be engaged on this matter, as part of its mandate to work for full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada.  A CCRC-sponsored symposium on the Best Interests of the Child in 2009 suggested a review of all age-based legislation to provide clear rationales based on the Convention on  the Rights of the Child.

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