Expanded access to medical assistance when dying | The opposition is asking the government to introduce a law

(Quebec) The long-awaited and agreed expansion of access to medical care for the dying could be “screwed up” and delayed until after the general election, the opposition fears. She urges the Legault government to come up with a bill as soon as possible, as there is very little time left to pass it before the end of Parliament’s session on June 10.

Posted at 2:26 p.m
Updated at 3:01 p.m

Tommy Chouinard

Tommy Chouinard
The press

On Thursday, MPs David Birnbaum (PLQ), Vincent Marissal (QS) and Véronique Hivon (PQ) made a joint public outing to put pressure on the Legault government to follow up the report of the all-party commission on medical euthanasia in December. They had an eloquent guest at their side who caused a stir.

” Hurry up. There are people like me, several thousand people whose countdown is on and won’t stop,” says Sandra Demontigny, who suffers from an early and hereditary form of Alzheimer’s disease I’ve had three years of acceptable life,” she added, her throat tight with emotion. She wishes to be able to request euthanasia in advance, which would allow her, when the time comes, “with serenity” and “with dignity “ to be able to leave.


Sandra Demontigny suffers from an early form of Alzheimer’s.

The long-awaited draft law would help people like her.

In its report, the special and non-partisan Commission for the Development of End of Life Care Act recommended expanding access to dying medical assistance for disabled people, such as those with Alzheimer’s, by allowing them to “pre-apply”. Members of this commission were David Birnbaum (PLQ), Vincent Marissal (QS) and Véronique Hivon (PQ).

Under the End of Life Care Act Submitted by Véronique Hivon and adopted in 2014, only a person capable of consent suffering from a terminal illness whose deterioration is advanced and irreversible can receive medical assistance in dying. A person with Alzheimer’s or dementia who is unable to give consent does not have access to it, even if other criteria such as advanced impairment of capacity are met. It is not possible to request medical euthanasia in advance.

The Legault government has committed to presenting a bill to address the bipartisan commission’s recommendation, but has not yet done so. The parliamentary session ends on June 10th. “If we adjourn” without passing a law, “it’s screwed up” and it will be necessary to wait a year for the file to be clarified, Vincent Marissal told a news conference. “So yes, we are putting pressure on the government. Hurry up. There are still 4 weeks. That’s not a lot of sand in the hourglass. »


Vincent Marissal

“It’s really midnight before one,” stressed Véronique Hivon. “It is important that the message is heard and that the bill is introduced now. […] In a month we can get there by working long hours” and adopting the text of the law.

David Birnbaum clarified that there was no question of sparing “a rigorous scrutiny” of a bill and that the opposition was ready to sit “day and night” to get the job done.

The all-party commission was chaired by CAQ MP Nancy Guillemette, who was conspicuous by her absence on Thursday. Véronique Hivon clarified that “Ms. Guillemette could not be there for reasons attributable to her” but that “she is informed and in solidarity with the current approach”.

At the exit of the Blue Room, the Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Christian Dubé, confirmed that “the draft law is in preparation and will be presented”. He has not formally committed to adopting it before June 10, the last day of parliamentary session before the summer recess and subsequent election campaign. He has already considered three bills in the National Assembly.

In its report, the Special Commission recommends that “an adult who is able to seek medical assistance in advance dies after being diagnosed with a serious and incurable disease resulting in disability,” such as a neurocognitive disorder.

The Commission proposes a framework for this expanded access to medical euthanasia. Only a person who has been diagnosed with a serious and terminal illness that is causing them to be unable to work can apply for a pre-application. For example, a healthy adult might not take one in anticipation of a possible disability following an accident.

In formulating such a pre-application, the physician should ensure that the individual’s decision is “free” and “informed,” without outside pressure. The person can change the request as long as they are able to do so. It should “designate a trusted third party responsible for disclosing its anticipated request for medical assistance in dying and for requesting that the request be processed at the appropriate time on its behalf.” In the absence of a trusted third party or in the event of prevention, “responsibility for safeguarding the patient’s will and action must be taken by a member of the care team”.

According to the Commission’s recommendations, the doctor must “consider both the application and the advance payment”, “if the trusted partner makes the application for the advance payment”, take them into account and react to them without delay.

Before performing medical euthanasia, the doctor must ensure that the person meets certain criteria, such as: [ne pouvant] be placated under conditions deemed tolerable”.

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