Quebec may expand eligibility for medically assisted death

04 December 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Quebec’s health minister says the province will open a consultation on allowing medically assisted death for people who can no longer give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future.

Right now, Quebec permits Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for terminally ill adult residents with an incurable disease who are undergoing great suffering, face imminent death, and give informed consent. The Quebec law was passed in 2014, and took effect in December 2015.

Between Dec. 10, 2015 and March 31, 2018, in the province 1,664 people were euthanized, according to Health Canada.

Danielle McCann, Quebec’s health minister, announced Nov. 29 that there will be a consultation on expanding existing criteria. McCann commissioned a panel of 22 experts to look into the proposed expansion which would allow the medically assisted death of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative conditions. She said she wants a full consultation of Quebecers before the 2022 election.

Véronique Hivon, a Parti Quebecois member of the national assembly, took part in the Nov. 29 press conference.

Hivon introduced the province’s existing medically assisted death law, and said that the criteria adopted then were necessary for its passage: “We didn’t want to lose the consensus. We had to listen to what people had to say.”

iPolitics wrote that Hivon “added that it should be possible to expand the option of medical assistance to die, for those not apt to make that decision, because a third person would be charged with following through on the wishes of the dying patient.”

Medical Assistance in Dying was legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. The practice has led to questions over the imprecision of the country’s requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability. While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet certain criteria.

According to Health Canada, among the eligibility criteria are that you “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” and “give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying”.

Health Canada also says that “you must be mentally competent and capable of making decisions” both “at the time of your request” and “immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided.”

Additionally, Health Canada says there are safeguards to ensure that those requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide “are able to make health care decisions for themselves” and “request the service of their own free will”.