Canada is set to implement new legislation allowing assisted suicide for minors aged 13 to 17, raising ethical questions about the expansion of euthanasia and its implications for artificial intelligence.
Starting from March 2024, Canada will broaden its existing regime of assisted suicide to include minors aged 13 to 17, a decision that has stirred controversy, particularly among religious groups. This extension of the law will permit medical services to carry out euthanasia not only for those suffering from terminal and painful illnesses but also for individuals with various physical and psychiatric disorders who lack the capacity to resist. To ensure oversight, applications for such termination must have the endorsement of at least two unrelated medical professionals.
In the past year, 10,064 Canadians opted for medically assisted death, constituting 3.3% of the total deaths. This figure is similar to euthanasia rates in the Netherlands (4.5%) and Belgium (2.4%), where similar legislation has been in place since 2002. A mere 0.4% of cases in Quebec raised concerns of undue influence or irregularities. However, with the expansion of euthanasia’s scope, these percentages are expected to increase significantly.
In October 2023, Portugal joined Spain and the Benelux countries in legalizing euthanasia, albeit with some reservations. Concerns revolve around the limitations on voluntary euthanasia, where individuals consciously decide to pursue assisted death, as opposed to non-voluntary situations where others must decide on behalf of incapacitated patients, such as those in comas.
Despite legal provisions introduced a decade ago, only 33,000 “living wills” remain on record in Canada, allowing individuals to declare their wishes not to be resuscitated or artificially fed. This raises questions about third-party interventions that may delay the natural process of death.
Exploring consciousness and AI
Researchers are delving into the complex issues surrounding consciousness while also examining the morality of conscience. Some international cooperatives are employing primitive forms of AI to explore and compile decision-making processes. Preliminary findings suggest that decisions exist in various forms, even in comatose patients. The exact location of the brain’s information-processing mechanism and its susceptibility to external influence remains uncertain.
Euthanasia decision-making is subject to fluctuating influences from patients, doctors, social workers, and moral climates. This uncertainty raises doubts about current procedures and future contemplations. As societies age, beliefs evolve, leading to concerns about the ethical ramifications of decisions made for the greater good. Additionally, the mental well-being of doctors is at an all-time low due to increasing stress levels, further complicating end-of-life care.
AI’s rapid development and moral concerns
The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence is causing concerns about its applications and the need for adequate regulation. The upcoming COP 28 conference in Dubai will focus on AI development and its ethical implications. There are fears that, similar to the introduction of virtual cryptocurrencies, retrospective rules may struggle to contain the moral uncertainties arising from AI.
The Role of AI in Decision-Making
AI is poised to play a pivotal role in decision-making, particularly in healthcare. Machines will rely on extensive databases to make logical, emotionless decisions about life and death. This has implications not only for euthanasia but also for broader ethical questions related to eugenics.
As the world stands at the cusp of an AI-driven revolution in governance, the question of who controls these machines becomes paramount. The potential benefits of AI must be balanced with concerns about autocratic states and unscrupulous companies gaining undue influence. The younger generation must take on the responsibility of shaping a brighter future and correcting the moral dilemmas left by their predecessors.