Quebec moves forward on dying with dignity by tabling controversial legislation

QUEBEC – The Quebec government has tabled its controversial right-to-die legislation in the national assembly.

A first reading of the bill is taking place today, just before Quebec politicians break for the summer holidays.

The controversial Bill 52 essentially outlines the conditions necessary for someone to get medical assistance to die and spells out the requirements necessary before a doctor can accept.

Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon is also forming a commission on end-of-life care that will be mandated to ensure the legislation is being applied correctly.

The legislation follows a landmark March 2012 report that suggested doctors be allowed in exceptional circumstances to help the terminally ill die if that is what the patients want.

It followed divisive public hearings held across the province in 2010 and 2011

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada and the federal government has previously said it won’t move to change the Criminal Code.

A panel of Quebec experts was convened and came to the conclusion in January that provinces have the legal jurisdiction to legislate in matters of health.

The panel also said the Quebec legislation would clarify how acts to end a life wouldn’t be considered suicide.

Under the recommendations, patients themselves would have to make the request to a doctor on the basis of unbearable physical or psychological suffering.

Two physicians would have to approve the request, which would have to be made in writing.

Doctors would not face criminal charges in these circumstances, the report said.

Any law should state that the refusal, interruption, abstention from care or the application of a terminal sedative in those circumstances could not be considered a suicide.