Controversial dying with dignity legislation tabled in Quebec
QUEBEC – The Quebec government is aiming to hold public hearings in the fall on its controversial right-to-die legislation, which was tabled Wednesday in the national assembly.
Bill 52, which received first reading as members of the legislature prepared for their summer recess, essentially outlines the conditions necessary for someone to get medical assistance to die.
It also spells out the requirements necessary before a doctor can accept.
Junior health minister Veronique Hivon is also forming a commission on end-of-life care that will be mandated to ensure the legislation is being applied correctly.
“This bill is a response to the demands of Quebec society, a society that has conducted a thorough reflection on the end of life and which is committed to work for the welfare of everyone,” Hivon said.
“Considering the interest and hope raised by the work of the special commission on dying with dignity and the unanimity of its recommendations, we have a responsibility as a government to deal with it.”
The legislation follows a landmark March 2012 report that suggested doctors be allowed in exceptional circumstances to help the terminally ill die if that is what the patients want.
It followed divisive public hearings held across the province in 2010 and 2011
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada and the federal government has previously said it won’t move to change the Criminal Code.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicolson wasn’t immediately available for comment but one Conservative MP said he hopes Ottawa will keep a close eye on the Quebec bill.
“I would hope that the government will examine the bill closely and ensure that it falls within provincial jurisdiction,” said Ontario Tory MP Stephen Woodworth, who added he has not seen the proposed legislation.
“If it doesn’t fall within provincial jurisdiction, I think Canadians do expect the government to stick up for federal jurisdiction.”
The tabling of the legislation in Quebec City comes five months after a panel of experts concluded that provinces have the legal jurisdiction to legislate in matters of health.
The panel also said the Quebec legislation would clarify how acts to end a life wouldn’t be considered suicide.
Under the recommendations, patients themselves would have to make the request to a doctor on the basis of unbearable physical or psychological suffering.
Two physicians would have to approve the request, which would have to be made in writing.
Doctors would not face criminal charges in these circumstances, the report said.
© 2013 The Canadian Press