Québec pushes the euthanasia boundaries again

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette

The Québec government passed Bill 52 to decriminalize euthanasia two years before the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s law against assisted suicide. (The federal government subsequently legalized assisted suicide.)

Gaétan Barrette, Québec’s Health Minister, is now considering extending euthanasia to incompetent people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, even though the law states that “medical-assistance-in-dying” [MAID] is limited to competent people.

The Federal government is also examining extending euthanasia to persons under 18, people who are incompetent with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and people who are “psychologically suffering” but not dying.

In an opinion article published in the Globe and Mail, columnist Konrad Yakabuski expressed his concerns with permitting MAID for incompetent people.

Yakabuski stated:

On March 24, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette announced a three-pronged approach aimed at potentially broadening the eligibility requirements for medical aid in dying. First, a provincial commission will examine the more than 250 requests for the procedure that have been either rejected or withdrawn since the practice was legalized. A group of experts will subsequently re-examine the question of allowing advance consent for MAID by people diagnosed with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Quebec’s Justice Ministry, meanwhile, will ask the courts to clarify the federal MAID law’s limit of the practice to only those facing a “reasonably foreseeable” death, which health professionals have complained is too vague.

When the Québec government was debating euthanasia, it insisted that it would implement the law carefully. Now that euthanasia is legal, the Federal government and Québec government are making plans to expand the law, just as we had predicted.

Yakabuski states his concerns:

None of this will make the path we have embarked on any less fraught with ethical red flags than it should be. There can be nothing ethically clear-cut about deciding when to end the life of an Alzheimer’s sufferer who is no longer cogent enough to consent. The whole notion of “unbearable suffering” (one of the federal law requirements for MAID) is in itself inscrutable when it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Unbearable for whom? Just whose suffering is being alleviated when loved ones ask God or the state for their dementia-stricken ward to die?

For what it’s worth, the Alzheimer Society of Canada argues that “MAID should only be possible when a person is deemed competent at the time of MAID. … [P]eople with dementia need to be safeguarded as they will be extremely vulnerable at the end of their life [and] do not have the capacity to make an informed decision and consent to end their life at the later stages of the disease.”

Personally, that’s enough guidance for me.

When the government permits the killing of its citizens by lethal injection, it crosses the clear line that killing a human being is always wrong. Now that one person can kill another person in Canada, the only question that remains is for what reason will it be permitted to kill.

Incremental extensions are inevitable.

The answer is to Care for people and not kill people.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.