Quebec considers expanding eligibility for euthanasia

Quebec’s health minister, Danielle McCann, says consultation on extending the criteria for euthanasia is about to open.

The new criteria will enable people to be euthanised if they can’t give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future.

These include people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative conditions.

Presently, Quebec permits euthanasia for terminally ill adult residents with an incurable disease who are undergoing great suffering, face imminent death, and give informed consent.

The Canadian province’s current law took effect in December 2015.

During the period from 10 December 2015 to 31 March 2018, 1,664 citizens were euthanised.

Véronique Hivon, a member of the Quebec legislature of the Pari Quebecois, introduced the province’s existing euthanasia law.

She says 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.

“…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.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalised federally in Canada in June 2016.

Questions over the imprecision of the country’s requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists, have followed.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability.

Although a patient does not have to have a fatal condition to qualify, they must meet a criterion expressed in various ways.

Some legislation says the patient “can expect to die in the near future”, or that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” or in the “not too distant” future, or that they are “declining towards death”.

Health Canada says among the eligibility criteria for euthanasia or assisted suicide requires the patient to “have a grievous and irremediable medical condition” and “give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying”.

In addition, the Canadian health ministry says the patient “must be mentally competent and capable of making decisions” both “at the time of [their] request” and “immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided.”

The national health ministry says there are safeguards to insure 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”.


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