Quebec moves to allow assisted suicide (Update)

The government of Canada's mostly French-speaking Quebec province on Wednesday unveiled legislation allowing terminally ill patients to kill themselves with a doctor's help.

The bill, expected to be passed into law as early as September, would make Quebec the first province in Canada to effectively legalize assisted suicide and set the stage for a jurisdictional row with Ottawa.

It comes after a bipartisan commission's two years of consultations with Quebecers, amid growing demands for suffering people to have more control over their parting.

But critics point out that federal criminal law forbids euthanasia even with a person's consent, while opponents say it will undermine confidence in doctors' care.

"Quebecers wish to be accompanied at the end of life, to avert and ease their suffering," Quebec's Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon told a press conference.

This act, she said, will allow them to face "their final days in a more serene way, and in accordance with their wishes."

Hivon noted that it would only be available to adult Quebec residents who are suffering from a terminal illness, and an independent doctor would have to concur with the prognosis.

To get around Canada's criminal law against assisted suicide, Quebec is expected to argue that this is a health issue, which falls under its jurisdiction, and not a criminal matter.

Hivon said the government would also ask Quebec prosecutors not to indict doctors or others who would help a person end their life.

Ottawa has not yet chimed in on the issue or the proposed Quebec bill.

A group of 500 Quebec doctors, philosophers, ethicists, lawyers, clergymen and others were quick to denounce the proposed legislation, and raised the specter of abuses and unnecessary deaths.

"Doctors should not and must not be placed in a situation of using a lethal substance to intentionally cause a patient's death," they said in a statement. "Such would undermine safety and confidence in our healthcare system."

"This bill is dangerous and must be defeated at all costs," physician Marc Beauchamps told a press conference.

Four US states—Montana, Oregon, Washington and Vermont—have similar statutes on the books.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Canada to appeal ruling on assisted suicide

Jul 13, 2012

(AP) — Canada's justice minister says the federal government will appeal a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling that said federal laws banning doctor-assisted suicide are unconstitutional.

Vermont House passes aid-in-dying bill

May 14, 2013

The Vermont House has approved a measure that would allow doctors to provide lethal medication to terminally ill patients seeking to end their own lives.

Recommended for you

Evidence plays limited role in OTC decision making

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For pharmacy graduates and tutors, evidence seems to play a limited role in over-the-counter decision making, according to a study published online Dec. 11 in the Journal of Evaluation in Cl ...

Shared medical appointments beneficial in geriatric care

13 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For older patients, a shared medical appointment (SMA) program facilitates early detection and referral for geriatric syndromes, according to an article published online Nov. 29 in the Journal of ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.