No Chance to Say “Goodbye”


A hospital in Toronto has proposed that doctors should have the authority to euthanize minor patients without even a word to the parents. [News source: Sick children in Canada may soon be euthanized without parental consent.]

An end-of-life decision for a terminally ill child must be heart-wrenching, a parent’s worst nightmare. But can you imagine learning—after the fact—that your child’s doctor has already taken that from you? You’ve had no time to work through the terrible news, no chance to say, “Goodbye.”

According to the policy proposed by the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics in the British Medical Journal’s Med Ethics, that would become a reality. In the decision-making flowchart included with the study, no assisted suicide discussion occurs with parents until a “reflection period” after the child has already been killed.

Under current Canadian law adopted in 2016, “capable patients” 18 years of age or older can opt for assisted suicide. This new policy would make that option available to “capable” children, as well. A child of 15 or 16 could opt for assisted suicide and instruct the physician not to alert her parents until after the fact, a request the doctors would be bound to honor under confidentiality laws.

The danger if there should be fraud in the system is tremendous. Who is to stop a hospital from terminating the life of a young patient against the patient’s will, if there are no parents in the mix to protect the child’s interests? It’s easy enough after the fact to claim consent from one who is no longer there to say otherwise.

But even with safeguards in place, this policy still places vulnerable children—even mature children—in a terribly awkward spot. As the Supreme Court declared in Parham v. J.R., 442 US 584 (1979), “Most children, even in adolescence, simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions, including their need for medical care or treatment. Parents can and must make those judgments.”

How much more is this true when the decision is literally life-and-death?

As any loving parent will tell you, it is not enough to ask whether my child could make that decision on her own. The fact is she should never have to. That’s just the kind of heavy lifting I’m here to face with them.

Yet Toronto University seems bent on cutting parents out of the child’s life just when that child needs a parent the most, robbing both parent and child of their final hours, days, or even months together.

Fortunately, this is only a policy proposal; it is not yet law, even in Canada. And it is even further removed from becoming the law here.

But now that “biomedical ethicists” have broached the subject (they argue that since Ontario laws do not require a parent’s permission for a child to refuse treatment, they should not require permission to end a child’s life, either), the proverbial genie cannot be put back in the bottle. It is only a matter of time before it is adopted somewhere and eventually makes its way here.

That is, unless we act to stop it. Which we can.

***Action Items***

The proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would protect the right of parents to direct the care of their minor children. This raises a tremendous legal barrier to those who want to snatch authority away from parents and give it to medical personnel.

And you can help us get the Amendment adopted.

  • First, you can volunteer for the Resolutionary Campaign, our effort to introduce in your state a legislative resolution calling on Congress to promote the Amendment. Since our email introducing the campaign four weeks ago, we’ve heard from dozens of volunteers across the country ready to step up and help. You can join them by emailing and using “Resolutionary” as the subject line. Let me know what state you’re in, and I can point you in the right direction to get started.
  • Second, you can fuel the campaign—and our ongoing work to pass the Amendment—with your generous donation. We depend entirely on donors just like you to fund our efforts to educate the public and policy makers about this important issue.

Before us lies a brave new world where you can take your sick teen to the hospital and come home with just a box of his belongings. But we can stop it from coming and preserve those final moments—and those momentous decisions—for families to face as one.

Together we can secure the Parental Rights Amendment and protect families even in their most fragile moments like these.

Thank you for your ongoing support.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

Share This