The Quebec government is proposing to legalize euthanasia

By Alex Schadenberg, executive director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Alex Schadenberg3A Quebec government committee announced that they are planning to legalize euthanasia that they are defining as a form of medical treatment.

Further confusion over terminology has been created by the media. The Quebec government Dying with Dignity report advocated for the legalization of euthanasia and yet the media refers to it as assisted suicide. In fact, when you read the Quebec report it is clear that they are proposing to legalize euthanasia, and not assisted suicide, and when you read the definitions, it is clear that they are proposing to legalize “Belgium Style” euthanasia.

Read: “The Perils of the Quebec Euthanasia Report” [www.alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/2012/03/perils-of-quebec-euthanasia-report.html].

Assisted suicide is similar to euthanasia but not the same. Assisted suicide is when one person directly and intentionally aids, encourages or counsels a person to commit suicide, but the death is technically done by the person who dies, whereas euthanasia involves the direct and intentional causing of death of another person, usually by lethal injection.

The Quebec government is planning to legalize euthanasia even though an analysis of the data from the 427 presentations to the committee found that 60% of the presenters opposed euthanasia, while 99% supported improvements to palliative care.

The Montreal Gazette reported that:

“Véronique Hivon, the Quebec minister responsible for implementing a report on dying with dignity, said Tuesday she hopes to present legislation setting out the rules for medically-assisted end-of-life procedures in the province.

“Hivon told reporters she would be guided in framing the dying-with-dignity law by the 400-page report she received Tuesday, prepared by three lawyers who examined the legal implications of such as law.

“Hivon explained Quebec is dealing with death as a medical issue, falling within provincial jurisdiction over health care, and said palliative care, offering end-of-life care and drugs to ease the pain ‘is the best solution for most people.’

“But Quebec will set the rules for patients, who must give their consent before refusing medical treatment, interrupting medical treatment or seeking medical assistance to die.

The Montreal Gazette outlined the proposed rules in Quebec:

1. A new set of rights be enshrined in law for patients, namely: the right to doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill adult patients, the right for patients to refuse treatment, the right for patients to halt treatment.

2. Only the patient can determine whether he or she wants help dying or wishes to refuse treatment. The patient’s physician can only approve the decision after evaluating a list of criteria, which will then be verified by a second doctor who specializes in the same field of medicine.

3. Should the patient chose to seek doctor-assisted suicide, they must repeat their request 15 days after having made it. If their health rapidly deteriorates, the patient can repeat the request after five days, but no earlier.

4. Once the second request is made, the patient and doctor will determine the method and location of the person’s death. The doctor must relay all of this information to Quebec’s council of physicians throughout the entire process.

5. Once the patient dies, three coroners will evaluate the person’s file. If the coroners find any irregularities, they hand the investigation over to police.

6. To mitigate the risk of a mentally ill patient seeking doctor-assisted suicide, a committee should be appointed to determine the patient’s mental state. If the person is found to be of sound mind, the committee will validate the patient’s right to die.

7. Terminally ill patients who opt for doctor-assisted suicide should have the right to choose the location of their death, meaning a person can spend their last moments at their home or in a hospital.

8. Patients set to begin palliative care should be made aware of their rights and options under the new laws.

The concept that Euthanasia would be bundled with palliative care would make Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement,  cringe. Saunders was a fierce critic of the euthanasia movement and believed that caring for the person through pain and symptom management must never include killing the person.

Saunders had a life-long commitment to opposing euthanasia while providing comfort at the end-of-life.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s  blog.