Quebec expands access to medical help to die

Québec élargit l’accès à l’aide médicale à mourir

The government Legault has chosen to expand access to medical assistance to die, by moving from six to five the number of criteria to meet in order to be eligible to receive medical assistance to die.

January 21, 2020 17h02

Updated at 18h06


Quebec expands access to medical help to die

Jocelyne Richer

The Canadian Press


Even if she is not in agony, a person will now be able to claim for medical help to die, in Quebec.

The government Legault has therefore chosen to expand the access to medical assistance to die, by moving from six to five the number of criteria to meet in order to be eligible to receive the ultimate care.

On the legal level, the criterion of “end-of-life’ enshrined in the quebec act will become inoperative, as of march 12,.

The five criteria

A person who wishes to end thanks to the intervention of a doctor must, however, meet the other five criteria listed in the law : be an adult, be able to consent to treatment until the last moment, to be suffering from a serious illness, and incurable, as is experience of physical suffering and psychic judged to be intolerable. Two doctors will have to attest to the fact that the suffering person meets all of the criteria.

The population must interpret this decision as “a signal that our government has the willingness to listen to the population, who demand that we focus on the question of medical help to die. Today, it is a very important step”, commented the minister of Health, Danielle McCann, at a press conference, flanked by the minister of Justice, Sonia LeBel.

In doing so, Quebec is in conformity with the judgment rendered in September by judge Christine Baudouin, of the superior Court, a decision which made obsolete the criterion of “end of life”, in Quebec, and that of “death reasonably foreseeable”, for the federal government, considered both unconstitutional.

In October, Québec announced that it would call not for this judgment, which left the government six months to adjust their legislation on this controversial topic.

Unlike the quebec government, the Trudeau government has not yet announced his intentions, compared to the federal law.

By its decision, the judge Baudouin gave reason to the two citizens experiencing serious health problems for many years without being in agony, Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, who challenged the legal provisions preventing them from claiming for medical help to die.

Alzheimer’s disease

In parallel, the government Legault has already pledged to examine the possibility of expanding the quebec law on medical assistance to die, deemed by some to be too restrictive, in particular for incapacitated individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

According to quebec law, the informed consent of the person suffering should be given up at the time of receiving the treatment lethal.

A consultation of experts and stakeholders will be conducted next week, January 27, at Montreal, on this delicate question of a possible broadening of the law, a subject that polarises public opinion. An online consultation for the general population will follow.

The minister McCann is still of the opinion that there is a consensus in the population to consider the possibility of expanding access to assistance to die.

“It signals to the population (in this sense), and I think that we must respond. But it should be a consensus on the most complete possible”, said Ms. McCann, noting that this was a “highly complex issue”.

The relevance of whether or not to allow the anticipated demand for medical help to die when it comes to people with Alzheimer’s disease will be part of the issues discussed.

Reaction of Véronique Hivon

Which is considered the “mother” of the current law on end of life care, the member pq’s Véronique Hivon, has reacted with caution to the government’s decision.

In a press briefing, she said the hope that the government ensures to conduct a proper consultation on the various issues raised by this question, and she insisted on the fact that the parliamentarians should be put into the blow.

For example, she wondered about the fate of the people with Alzheimer’s disease.

“A person who has Alzheimer’s disease, but that is not in the very last stages, so she still has episodes of aptitude, it is in stages, say, the parting of the evolution of the disease, it will be able to request medical help to die. So, how are we going to judge if it is acceptable? Is it that the ability is correct? Is, therefore, a person who is fit by episodes is going to be able to have access to medical help to die? By removing the criterion of end-of-life, it is an issue which arises”, she argued.

“Same thing for young persons who come to suffer, for example, an accident and become quadraplégiques, tetraplegic, is, so, now it’s going to be possible? Is it that it is the guide of the College of physicians who will come to put an additional coaching or there will be no additional coaching? We will assimilate it to a serious disease and incurable?” inquired the deputy.

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