Quebec legalizes doctor-assisted death

Quebec lawmakers voted in favour Thursday of allowing doctor-assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients. Canada’s federal government has previously said it would legally challenge the provision in the province’s Quebec’s law, “respecting end-of-life care” that, for the first time in Canada, would legally allow doctors to help end the life of competent patients who choose to ask for help dying.

Bill 52  was passed in a free vote following extensive hearings, and with unusual support from all provincial political parties. It was introduced last year by the previous Parti Quebecois government, delayed by a general election in April, and again supported by the winning Liberal government. Thursday’s vote in the province’s National Assembly was 94 to 22, with no abstentions.

Quebec’s doctor-assisted death provisions include:

Only a patient who meets all of the following criteria may obtain medical aid in dying:

(1) be an insured person within the meaning of the Health Insurance Act (chapter A-29);

(2) be of full age and capable of giving consent to care;

(3) be at the end of life;

(4) suffer from a serious and incurable illness;

(5) be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and

(6) experience constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering which cannot be relieved in a manner the patient deems tolerable.

Assisted suicide is a politically contentious issue in Canada; the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule this fall on a challenge to Criminal Code provisions banning assisted suicide in the case of terminally ill people. Euthanasia and/or assisted suicide is currently legal in several European countries, while three American states — Oregon, Washington and Vermont — have made assisted suicide legal in the case of terminally-ill, competent adults.  

Further reading:
Death with Dignity, a Free Range column on euthanasia by Deborah Jones, in Think/Commentary (Paywall)