October 29, 2013 6:13 pm
Updated: January 17, 2014 6:10 pm

Quebec’s Liberal caucus torn over ‘dying with dignity’


QUEBEC CITY – Although many voted against it, Quebec’s controversial “dying with dignity” bill passed its second reading this week.

Liberal MNA Pierre Paradis lost both his parents and he said that his vote on Tuesday was a very personal one.

“It’s our education, our religion, our friendships, our relations with the health system,” he said. Death “is not the same for every individual so when you legislate you try to create something equal for everybody but it’s not equal for everybody.”

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Paradis worries about the risks of legalizing euthanasia and he’s not the only one. Many doctors have said the proposed bill is simply a way for the government to cut costs, by ending someone’s life.

READ MORE: Controversial dying with dignity legislation tabled in Quebec


The “dying with dignity” bill has been in the works for years, and it’s generally been backed by every political party at the National Assembly.

Now, half of the Liberal caucus is voting against the passage in principle, an early step in the law-making process.

“To me that’s another form of assisting someone to die,” said Liberal MNA Rita de Santis.

“Just because you do it within 48 hours instead of immediately doesn’t change for me what it is.”

Bill 52 aims to give terminally-ill Quebecers the right to decide when to die, under strict legal guidelines.

Patients will have to make the request themselves and it will have to be approved, in writing, by two separate doctors.

Assisted suicide is illegal under Canada’s Criminal Code, but the minister responsible for the bill, Véronique Hivon, insisted the province is on solid ground because it’s dealing with death as a medical issue, which falls within provincial jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, Hivon said she doesn’t need unanimity to press forward.

“I think we need to reflect the consensus of the society,” said Hivon.

“This consensus is very strong and it think it’s important to remind ourselves that there’s a lot of hope that is being put into us as MNAs by members of the population to see this bill go forward.”

READ MOREHalf of Liberal caucus torn over ‘dying with dignity’

Liberal leader Philippe Couillard said he understands why for some of his MNAs, doctor-assisted suicide is so wrong, even the principle is unacceptable.

He told reporters he hopes elements of the bill will soon be clarified. For example, what is “end of life”? What is “terminal palliative sedation”?

“My whole medical training makes me fearful about that type of thing,” he said.

“I can accept though there can be very very very exceptional situations where it could be justified, but it would have to be shown by the legislator that all steps are being taken to demonstrate the exceptional character of that situation, which is not the case in the current formulation of the bill.”

Gatineau Liberal MNA Stéphanie Vallée agreed.

“In the commission report all the definitions are there and they’re clear but they don’t appear in the bill.”

In the end, the “dying with dignity” bill did pass the second reading.

Eighty-four MNAs voted in favour and 26, including one CAQ MNA, voted against.

Next is a clause by clause study, followed by amendments and then a final vote.

The adoption of Bill 52 would mark a first in Canadian history.

© 2013 Shaw Media

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