Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Quebec government is proposing to legalize euthanasia

The Quebec government Ménard report announced that the Quebec government can legalize euthanasia by defining it as a form of medical treatment. Healthcare is under the provincial jurisdiction while the criminal code is federal.

The Ménard report also states that the Quebec government could decide not to prosecute euthanasia cases to avoid the criminal code prohibition for homicide in these circumstances.

Confusion over terminology has been created by the media. The Ménard report advocated for the legalization of euthanasia under the term "assisted death." The media has referred to it as assisted suicide. When you reading 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.

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, where the death is done by a physician 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
Véronique Hivon, the Quebec minister responsible for implementing the dying with dignity report, 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 death 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 death, 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 death, 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 death 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. 
8Patients set to begin palliative care should be made aware of their rights and options under the new laws.
Dame Cicely Saunders
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.

You can help stop the Quebec government from decriminalizing euthanasia by joining Vivre dans la Dignité or the Physicians Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia in Quebec or the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition in Canada.


Archdiocese of Vancouver said...

Let's hope the minister gives at least as much attention to the report from the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, Not to be Forgotten, Care of Vulnerable Canadians

Ironsides said...

Alex, I hope that if you have never before been able to do a presentation to the doctors of the MUHC, that it will be possible in the near future.

Madellen said...

The following are quotes from the College des Medicins Du Quebec. (2009). Physician, Appropriate Care and the Debate on Euthanasia: A Reflection. Retrieved from
"The idea of having to accept a request for euthanasia due to the health system’s inability to offer the appropriate care is absolutely unacceptable!"(p.5).
YES, WELL, the health system IS failing to to offer appropriate, timely treatment at all levels of care for our most vulnerable citizens. This is well documented. It is a remarkable statement for the College to make while at the same time advocating euthanasia. They must have been very out of touch with the latest consumer research and advocacy.
"The process of deciding on the appropriate care is far too complex and delicate to be reduced to certain specific conditions already prescribed in the law. Such legislative changes have a foreseeable consequence of confining doctors to the role of simply carrying out orders" (p.5).
RIGHT HERE is the ‘safeguard ‘ problem. The College worries that detailed regulations will restrict physician decision making power and veto power, making them technicians, as they say in the report. Safeguards will involve oversight, treatment teams, post mortem scrutiny and so on. These become time consuming, bureaucratic burdens that doctors and hospitals do not like dealing with. In reality, ‘safeguards’ will likely become either rubber stamp checklists, or administrative duties for social workers and clerks. BUT - having no regulations clearly means having no patient or public safety.
The Quebec plan seems like a lose-lose situation - on so many levels.

Social Work Clinicians (MSW)
British Columbia