Quebec open to expanding criteria for medical aid in dying requests following report

Medical aid to die law needs to be tweaked
WATCH: A report released Wednesday found that 1,632 people have received medical aid to die since the law came in to effect three years ago. One third of all requests were refused. As Global's Raquel Fletcher explains, the heath minister says she is open to broadening the criteria to receive medical aid to die.

A report released Wednesday found that 1632 people have received medical assistance in dying die since the Quebec law was implemented a little more than three years ago.

The report on the situation of end of life care, commissioned by the government of Quebec, also found that one third of all requests (830 of 2462) were either denied or unable to be administered.

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said on Wednesday she is open to broadening the criteria to receive medical aid to die — even if this new report revealed there is still resistance to the law in its current form.

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The committee on end of life care, which commissioned the report, found weaknesses in the system. Quebecers who are requesting medical aid to die are sometimes being dissuaded by the medical professionals they consult, said committee president Michel Bureau.

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“This is a problem that we heard more on an anecdotal basis,” Bureau said, explaining that many of these requests were made orally and therefore there is no way to officially keep track of when it’s happening.

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The committee also reported that 400 people who could have received medical aid to die didn’t because they had either already passed away or lost the capacity to consent.

Bureau explained that delays can be explained by a lack of doctors willing to provide medical assistance in dying.

“In a few large institutions, there are just two or three physicians that declare themselves available to give this service,” he said.

Parti Québécois MNA Véronique Hivon, the politician who spearheaded the original bill, weighed in on the report.

“For me, it’s telling that the education of doctors in medical aid to dying is not sufficient,” said Hivon.

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She also says a new debate is already brewing, calling for advanced consent.

“I’m sure you know people who say… ‘I would want medical aid in dying if I’m not able to eat by myself, if I’m not able to recognize my grand kids.’ So I think if people are well-informed, that is something that can be done,” Hivon said.

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She added that she’s disappointed the health minister hasn’t presented a clear action plan.

McCann said the government will hold public consultations, but she didn’t confirm where or when.

“(This is a) very, very important dossier, very sensitive, so that’s what we’ll do. We will certainly want to respond to the wishes of the population,” McCann said.