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Quebec appoints experts to weigh in on expanding assisted-dying law

Quebec is weighing calls to expand the province's current laws to allow people with Alzheimer’s and other diseases to request a medically assisted death.
Quebec is weighing calls to expand the province's current laws to allow people with Alzheimer’s and other diseases to request a medically assisted death. Jaime Razuri/AFP/Getty Images

Quebec’s health minister says he is assembling a group of experts to help weigh the decision to expand the province’s medical aid to die law.

“We see more and more situations where patients would have liked to have access to medical assisted dying and we are hearing people asking us to address situations that are outside the boundaries of Quebec’s law,” said Health Minister Gaetan Barrette.

READ MORE: Quebec politician makes plea for Alzheimer’s patients to have access to doctor-assisted death

Calls to expand the law to allow people with Alzheimer’s disease to access medically-assisted death have received attention after a Montreal man was charged with second-degree murder in the February death of his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

READ MORE: Assisted-dying in Canada: What you need to know about the new law

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About 45,000 people suffer from the disease in Quebec, but currently those with Alzheimer’s are not able to access medical aid to die because the law does not allow them to give advanced consent. The health minister explained that with a degenerative disease, after someone has become incompetent, it’s difficult to determine at what stage they wanted to die.

“[They are] asking us to reflect on this issue, everything that is outside the boundaries of our law, and we say yes to the reflection,” Barrette said, adding it will take at least a year before the government makes a decision on potentially expanding the law.

“This is not an easy task, so we need to be extremely cautious,” he said.

READ MORE: 60 medically assisted deaths in Alberta this year, majority happened in Edmonton: AHS

Barrette said the group of experts will study the issue closely. He has also asked that all cases which have been refused in the past be documented and reviewed. Then the government will also ask the courts to more precisely define what the clause “reasonably foreseeable death” means in the law.

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