Friday, August 13, 2010

'Living with dignity' is group's message

The Montreal Gazette published the following article about the  group Vivre dans la Dignité in Quebec. The article explains their point of view and promotes the new english language website.

'Living with dignity' is group's message

Anti-euthanasia association opposes any move to legalize mercy killing

By Charlie Fidelman, The Gazette - August 13, 2010

MONTREAL - According to surveys, 80 per cent of Quebecers, including doctors, say they are in favour of "dying with dignity," but a new grassroots group is quietly building opposition to the campaign to legalize euthanasia.

"Our biggest concern -and what's at stake here -is that we don't want the practice of euthanasia smuggled into the public health care system under the guise of medical treatment," said Linda Couture, director of Living With Dignity, a nonpartisan, nonreligious group focused on end-of-life issues.

Couture's group has started an online campaign calling on Quebecers to say "no" to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

A separate group of about 50 McGill University professors, including several from faculties of medicine and pharmacy, recently warned that Quebec risks making doctors "society's executioners" by attempting to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Both groups submitted briefs to the National Assembly committee that is to hold public hearings on the issue in September.

"We want to make sure people know what's involved and what their rights are," said Couture, whose group sees itself as the "voice of the silent and vulnerable," including the elderly, the sick and the handicapped.

As soon as its English-language website went live last week (the French site was up in June), signatures on the manifesto jumped to more than 1,000, Couture said.

The group is concerned that the Quebec College of Physicians, the province's medical regulatory body, last year came out in favour of euthanasia as appropriate care under certain circumstances when death is imminent and inevitable.

A debate on end-of-life issues is a good thing but Quebecers are being asked to give their opinions on a topic few know much about, Couture said.

There's a lot of confusion with definition of terms in end-of-life care, Couture added -for example, between palliative sedation and euthanasia.

Few people want to suffer but there's no need to kill the patient to kill the pain, she said.

"We have a lot of unanswered questions: How much will it cost in Quebec? Who will pay for that? Who will practise (euthanasia) and where? How will that change the relationship between doctor and patient?"

Her concerns about terminology echo the Canadian Medical Association Journal position that confusion over euthanasia burdens the end-of-life debate. "Opposing sides use it to further their ideological views: murder vs. mercy; the right to live vs. the right to die with dignity; selfishness vs. compassion," Ken Flegel and Paul Hebert (senior editor and editor-in-chief) wrote in an editorial titled Time to Move on From the Euthanasia Debate.

They called on doctors to promote honest dialogue. For example, adding enough sedation to relieve pain and agitation and improve comfort in a cancer patient may increase the probability of death -but that's not euthanasia.

Those who oppose euthanasia are easy to mobilize, fanned by religion or ideology, said Helene Bolduc of the Association quebecoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignite.

"It's not that we're fanatic about euthanasia. We want choice for those who are sick and suffering and can't go on anymore."

For information about the Living With Dignity english website:

For access to the french website:

Link to the article in the Montreal Gazette at:

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