Q: Has Canada passed a law that would allow parents to euthanize disabled children?
A: No. Canada’s physician-assisted death law applies only to adults if they are mentally capable of making such a decision.
Physician-assisted death has been legal in Canada for adult patients who have terminal illnesses since June 2016.
It is not legal — at this point — for anyone under the age of 18.
Several websites, though, have recently published stories claiming that the law allows parents to euthanize children with disabilities. More than a dozen variations of that story have been shared more than 50,000 times on Facebook. Users of the social media site flagged them as potentially false. They are.
One popular, and false, headline says: “Canada Legalizes Euthanasia For Parents To Kill Their Disabled Kids.”
That story, on YourNewsWire.com, features a picture of a woman cradling an infant who is being injected with a hypodermic needle. The photo has nothing to do with the Canadian physician-assisted death law and is actually from 2014. It shows a newborn in New Zealand getting vaccinated.
Another bogus version of the story on neonnettle.com uses a 2006 photo of a little boy getting a meningitis vaccine in Northern Ireland. Again, it has nothing to do with the laws in Canada.
In both cases, the websites copied a story that included accurate information about the Canadian law from Life Site News, an anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia site, and added a false headline and some false information at the top.
The Life Site News story — large sections of which were reprinted on YourNewsWire.com and neonnettle.com — was prompted by a report released by the Canadian Paediatric Society in October. That report noted that the parents of dying or severely disabled children have inquired with their doctors about assisted death options along with palliative care.
Contrary to the false reports on YourNewsWire.com and neonnettle.com, though, assisted death for those children is not a legal option at this point, and the Canadian Paediatric Society report doesn’t indicate one way or the other whether it should be.
But, since the physician-assisted death law for adults in Canada was instigated by a court case, the report suggests that the parents of severely ailing children might take the same course and pursue their interests through the courts.
“In the foreseeable future, parents may challenge health care decisions in court on the grounds that continued life, as experienced by their dying or profoundly disabled child, is not in that child’s best interests,” it says.
Under Canada’s law, an adult patient can only receive medical assistance for dying if the patient is “capable of making decisions with respect to their health,” has “a grievous and irremediable medical condition,” and makes the request voluntarily and after being informed of palliative care options. As it stands now, the law requires an independent review of the potential for extending the law to cover “mature minors.” The Council of Canadian Academies is conducting that review and plans to finish by the end of 2018.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
Statutes of Canada 2016. An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other Acts (medical assistance in dying). 17 Jun 2016.
Adl-Tabatabai, Sean. “Canada Legalizes Euthanasia For Parents To Kill Their Disabled Kids.” YourNewsWire.com. 22 Nov 2017.
Canadian Paediatric Society. “Medical Assistance in Dying: A Paediatric Perspective.” 26 Oct 2017.
Department of Justice (Canada). Supreme Court of Canada ruling. 12 Oct 2016.
Council of Canadian Academies. Medical Assistance in Dying. Accessed 28 Nov 2017.