Quebec: an “immoral and unconstitutional” bill on “end-of-life care”

Publié le : 21 June 2013

 In Quebec, in reaction to the bill on "end-of-life care" submitted last week by Quebec’s Minister for Social Services (Gènéthique press review on June 6th, 2013), Marc Beauchamp (1) , a doctor, and Michel Racicot (2), a retired lawyer, denounced it in an article as an attempt to deceive the population, by legalising active euthanasia without expressly calling it that.   

The authors of the article write that the bill "contains a section aimed at decriminalising and legalising forms of active euthanasia." Behind the term "medically assisted dying", the bill indeed authorises euthanasia, "camouflaged as ‘end-of-life care’," they explain. Because, since "no national or international medical body defines or recognises ‘medically assisted dying’," it can only be regarded as "a synonym for ‘active euthanasia’." Likewise, the "concept of ‘terminal palliative sedation’ is another form of ‘active euthanasia’." Consequently, authors Beauchamp and Racicot conclude: "it appears clear that the bill is essentially designed, using a false term, to withdraw a prohibition dating back 24 centuries," namely: "for a doctor to voluntarily make a patient die."        
So this bill appears to be in complete contradiction with Canadian criminal law which prohibits assisted suicide. However, the government plans to get around this illegality by sending a directive to the magistrates of Quebec instructing them not to initiate prosecutions in cases of assisted suicide.  
More generally speaking, the bill is also "contrary to the principles defended by the charters of Canada (‘each person has a right to life’) and Quebec (‘all human beings are equal in value and in dignity’ and ‘all human beings have a right to life and to the integrity of their person’)". And the "value or the dignity of a person does not diminish according to their age, condition or capacity," the authors affirm. 
Lastly, they denounce the fact that "the [Quebec] government is choosing to ignore the warnings against possible abuses." They point out that although certain conditions must be met in order to have recourse to medically assisted dying according to the bill, it does not state that these "apply to terminal sedation." These conditions are close to those that were adopted in Belgium. But, "an imposing international scientific medical literature demonstrates the ineffectiveness of these safeguards in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

(1) Spokesman of the Doctors’ Collective Medical Refusal of Euthanasia 
(2) Spokesman of the civic network Living in Dignity

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