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Euthanasia bill’s delay a time for reflection

  • February 27, 2014

The delay in the passage of Quebec’s Bill-52, which would allow euthanasia in certain circumstances, gives individuals and groups on both sides of the issue time to reflect on better ways to move forward on providing effective end-of-life care both in Quebec and elsewhere.

The bill failed to pass before a scheduled two-week break, reportedly because the opposition Liberals want to wait until later in March to continue the debate, insisting that members — Liberals are being allowed a free vote on the conscience issue — need more time to speak. The bill could also die on the order paper if an election is called after the break. Given the level of interest, however, there is no doubt that the bill, and probably similar proposals elsewhere, will be back. Most people fear the possibility of a painful, protracted death, and many are not aware of already existing rights to refuse treatment.

In the four years the bill has been in the works, much has been made of the supposed safeguards built into it. Doctors would be allowed to provide “medical aid in dying” to patients close to death and unable to endure the physical or psychological pain, who make the request clearly in writing. A “consent form” would require the approval of two doctors. The Quebec Select Committee on Dying with Dignity received 427 submissions in hearings across Quebec during 2011. About 60 per cent of the presenters opposed euthanasia, while 99 per cent supported improvements to palliative care.

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