Quebec considers expanding eligibility for euthanasia

Euthanasia Medical syringe Credit sfam photo Shutterstock CNA sfam_photo/Shutterstock.

Quebec's health minister announced Friday that the province will open a consultation on allowing euthanasia for people who can no longer give informed consent or who will die of an illness in the more distant future.

Presently, Quebec permits euthanasia for terminally ill adult residents with an incurable disease who are undergoing great suffering, face imminent death, and give informed consent.

The Quebec law was passed in 2014, and took effect in December 2015.

Between Dec. 10, 2015 and March 31, 2018, in the province 1,664 people were euthanized.

Danielle McCann, Quebec's health minister, announced Nov. 29 that there will be a consultation on expanding existing criteria. The proposed expansion would allow euthanization of people with Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative conditions.

Véronique Hivon, a member of the Quebec legislature of the Pari Quebecois, took part in the Nov. 29 press conference.

Hivon introduced the province's existing euthanasia law, and said that the criteria adopted then were necessary for its passage: "We didn't want to lose the consensus. We had to listen to what people had to say."

iPolitics wrote that Hivon "added that it should be possible to expand the option of medical assistance to die, for those not apt to make that decision, because a third person would be charged with following through on the wishes of the dying patient."

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. The carrying out of the practices have led to questions over the imprecision of the country's requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability. While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet a criterion variously expressed as they "can expect to die in the near future", that natural death is "reasonably foreseeable" in the "not too distant" future, or that they are "declining towards death".

According to Health Canada, among the eligibility criteria for euthanasia or assisted suicide are that you "have a grievous and irremediable medical condition" and "give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying".

The Canadian health ministry also says that "you must be mentally competent and capable of making decisions" both "at the time of your request" and "immediately before medical assistance in dying is provided."

The national health ministry says there are safeguards to insure that those requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide "are able to make health care decisions for themselves" and "request the service of their own free will".

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