Friday, January 18, 2013

Medical Aid in Dying — report introduced in Quebec's National Assembly

Four days ago, Québec's National Assembly under the administration
 of the minority government of the Parti Québecois, brawt in a report
by an expert panel to allow some people to choose for medical 
assistance  to aid them in dying.  The bill is supported by all parties
in the government coalition.  The Québec government has set as
it's goal for enactment of the legislation sometime in the summer of
this year.  Ontario is quite another story; the government here in  the
hand of Liberal Party under Dalton McQuinty with support from the
opposition parties has ignominiously outlaws the very idea Death 
with Dignity to any practical extent, thus sadistically prolonging the
life of pain even of terminally ill persons without families to support
them spiritually and carefully.  The contrast between the two 
provinces is clear.  What approach the Federal government will take
remains to be seen and, perhaps, suffered.

— Albert Gedraitis

Dying with Dignity (Jan18,2k13)
An expert judicial panel appointed by the government of Quebec released their report this morning. Their report moves the province one step closer to legalized medical aid-in-dying by the summer of 2013.
Last March, as part of a comprehensive report on Dying With Dignity, the all-party committee of the Quebec National Assembly issued their full report (click here for English version), including recommendations to allow legalized end-of-life choice for individuals suffering greatly at end-of-life.
The government then appointed three expert lawyers to a judicial panel to make recommendations to the government on how to proceed with implementing these recommendations.
At issue is the fact that the right to medically-assisted dying is currently prohibited by the Criminal Code which is federal legislation and thus cannot be amended by any province. However, while the criminal law is set at a federal level, it is up to the provinces to write and administer healthcare legislation. Thus the panel recommends that Quebec introduce new healthcare legislation that will allow specific exemptions to the Criminal Code for doctors who provide medical assistance for someone to die.

Any exemption will be contingent on doctors following a strict set of guidelines so that the weak and vulnerable will also be protected.
The guidelines are very similar to those made in the Dying With Dignity Report: The Committee recommends that relevant legislation be amended to recognize medical aid-in-dying as appropriate end-of-life care if the request made by the person meets the following criteria as assessed by the physician:
  • The person is a Quebec resident according to the Health Insurance Act;
  • The person is an adult able to consent to treatment under the law;
  • The person himself requests medical aid-in-dying after making a free and informed decision;
  • The person is suffering from a serious incurable disease;
  • The person is in an advanced state of weakening capacities, with no chance of improvement;
  • The person has constant and unbearable physical and psychological suffering that cannot be eased under conditions he deems tolerable. 
The government of Quebec has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to allow medically-assisted dying by the summer of 2013. This bill will follow a report of the commission that has been supported by all government parties.

They are now one giant step closer.
Can Quebec do this? There are historical precedents. We do know that BC has already established prosecutorial guidelines that provide discretion to crown attorneys in bringing charges for assisting someone to end their life.  And Quebec was the first province to stop charging doctors for performing abortions - something they did 12 years before the legislation finally changed. It will be interesting to see the Federal response.

1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, if you suffer greatly, it should be your own choice. However, I would fight to the bitter end, no matter the suffering.