In a letter dated 13 July and addressed to the directors of health care establishments in Quebec, Deputy Minister Michel Fontaine “discretely” modified the conditions for authorising “medically assisted dying”.He explained that these changes were “necessary to avoid any risk of violating the Criminal Code” and “to conform with the Federal Law adopted on 17 June” (see “Murder legalised in Canada”).
The main change concerns the length of time allocated to facilitate “medically assisted dying”: “ten days exactly, excluding the day on which the request was made”, extending from the date of the request and implementation of “medically assisted dying”. However, “this period of time can be shortened if the two doctors dealing with the request deem that the person is about to die or to lose the ability to give his or her informed consent”.
According to the letter, requests for “medically assisted dying” should “from now on be made to three people rather than just one”, i.e. two independent witnesses and a health professional. Finally, the doctor performing the act and the doctor giving a second opinion “should be independent”.
These measures have already fuelled lively reactions. The Quebec Party has accused the Government of acting “behind closed doors, relinquishing provincial competence to legislate on this issue”. Health Minister, Gaëtan Barrette, does not rule out a change in Quebec legislation in the future according to due process, but “only after a decision has been taken to appeal against the Federal law currently before the Courts of British Columbia” (see In Canada, an initial request to extend the criteria for medically assisted dying).
The application of these new measures will depend upon the Commission’s attitude to end-of-life care – “will it request specific information from doctors who exempt their patient from the ten-day period?” Will it be “flexible” or “rigid”?
Le Devoir, Amélie Daoust-Boisvert (18/07/2016); Le Devoir, Boris Proulx (19/07/2016)