MONTREAL – Oregon physician Dr. Kenneth Stevens warns that if Quebec’s proposed assisted suicide law passes, it could end several people’s lives who would eventually decide to live.
“The concern I have is that of people who are not necessarily dying,” he said. They are “sort of lured into assisted suicide.”
A former patient of his, Portland resident Jeanette Hall, was convinced she wanted assisted suicide 13 years ago. It recently had become legal under Oregon law, and she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. She didn’t want to become a burden on members of her family, but Stevens was telling her she could recover if she underwent chemotherapy.
“She had really given up on her life, and so I was able to provide her with some hope that there was some reason to live,” Stevens said.
He convinced her to undergo chemotherapy after pointing out that she might not live long enough to see her son get married. Thirteen years later, Hall is trying to convince jurisdictions to turn its back on assisted suicide.
“Every day, when I look up and breathe and see leaves falling, something new, it’s great to be alive,” she said.
In Quebec, advocate physician Dr. Paul Saba warns the proposed law offers up a broad definition of who would be eligible for assisted suicide.
“People with chronic diseases can be included in their category of suffering. People with depression. People with lung or heart disease or arthritis,” he said. “They’re promoting death, they’re not promoting health care.”
When Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon proposed the bill, she said she did it to limit suffering for Quebec patients. Only one out of five Quebec patients have access to palliative care. But advocates warn if it becomes law, Bill 52 – as it’s called in English – would move the government away from caring for patients and toward trying to end their lives before their time.
“What has happened in medicine?” Stevens said. “Our governments should be looking out for us rather than causing our death.”
It isn’t clear what will happen should the law pass. Currently, assisted suicide is illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code. Quebec lawmakers have said in the past that Bill 52 would fly under an exception as it would be somehow governed by civil law.