Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quebec euthanasia bill (Bill 52) a short overview.

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On June 12, the Quebec national assembly introduced Bill 52: "An Act respecting end-of-life care" to legalize euthanasia in Quebec.

Euthanasia is an action or omission that is directly and intentionally done to cause the death of another person, to eliminate suffering. Euthanasia is a form of homicide.

Yes, Bill 52 legalizes euthanasia, even though media reports and other groups continue to refer to it as assisted suicide.

In order to avoid the issue of jurisdiction with the federal Criminal Code the Quebec government defined euthanasia as health care and they claim that euthanasia, that they refer to as “medical aid in dying,” is part of the continuum of palliative care.

The federal Justice Minister, Hon Rob Nicholson responded to the Quebec euthanasia bill by stating: 
“The Government of Canada will review the implications of Quebec’s proposed legislation on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. 
“The laws that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are potentially the most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly, and people with disabilities. 
 “In April 2010, a large majority of Parliamentarians voted not to change these laws, which is an expression of democratic will on this topic. 
The Quebec euthanasia Bill 52 is a masterful example of false claims.

The Quebec government claims that there are no laws prohibiting euthanasia in Canada. Section 222 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states:
“A person commits homicide when directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being.”
Euthanasia is the direct killing of a human being, usually by lethal injection.

Contrary to what the Quebec government states, Bill 52 does not limit euthanasia to terminally ill people. 

The bill states in Section 26 (2) that a person meets the criteria for medical aid in dying (euthanasia) when: (the person) suffers from an incurable serious illness.

Bill 52 does not define the prognosis of the person. In the State of Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, a person is defined to be within 6 months of death. In Quebec a person qualifies for euthanasia when they have an incurable serious illness (undefined).

There are many incurable serious illnesses that are in fact chronic conditions where the person is not imminently dying, but may eventually die from the condition. Type 2 Diabetes for example.

Bill 52 allows euthanasia for people experiencing psychological pain. The bill defines suffering in Section 26 (3) to be physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable. People who are living with chronic depression would qualify for euthanasia even if they reject effective treatments.

Bill 52 legalizes a form of homicide (euthanasia) under the guise of “medical aid in dying.”

Bill 52 is a very dangerous piece of legislation. 

The Quebec government must abandon its intention to legalize euthanasia and recommit itself to providing the best palliative and long-term care for its citizens.

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