Quebec passes landmark end-of-life-care bill

Terminally ill patients in Quebec now have the right to choose to die. The non-partisan Bill 52, also known as an act respecting end-of-life care, passed Thursday afternoon in a free vote at the National Assembly in Quebec City.

Act respecting end-of-life care, Bill 52, allows terminally ill patients to choose death

MNA Véronique Hivon, who drafted Bill 52 under the former PQ government, smiles as the bill is passed Thursday in the National Assembly with a vote of 94 to 22. (Radio-Canada)

Terminally ill patients in Quebec now have the right to choose to die.

The non-partisan Bill 52, also known as an act respecting end-of-life care, passed Thursday afternoon in a free vote at the National Assembly in Quebec City.

Dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering,— Véronique Hivon, PQ member of the National Assembly

The bill passed 94-22. There were no abstentions.

"Sometimes when you are suffering in pain, one hour can feel like one week.… The protection of the vulnerable is reflected in every aspect of this bill," said Parti Québécois member of the National Assembly Véronique Hivon, who drafted the bill when she was minister of social services under the former PQ government.

Bill 52 allows for and outlines under which conditions terminally ill Quebecers can request to receive medical aid in dying.

The main indicator for requesting medical aid in dying is "an incurable disease, an incurable illness, which is causing unbearable suffering."

"For me, dying with dignity means dying with the least amount of suffering … and respecting who that person always was during his or her whole life," Hivon said in the National Assembly before the vote took place.

Her speech was followed by applause and a standing ovation.

Liberal Christine St-Pierre was one of the 22 who voted against Bill 52.

"I don't believe it's right to give [anyone] the power to kill somebody," St-Pierre said.

This legislation is the first of its kind in Canada. Its passage comes at a time when the right to die is being heavily debated in the rest of the country.

The Parti Québécois tabled the bill nearly a year ago after years of work from both the PQ and the Liberal government that came before it.

A committee on dying with dignity was assembled during Jean Charest's tenure as Quebec premier to study the issue and produce a report.

Its massive report, filed in March 2012, provided the foundation for Bill 52.​

However, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard refused to play ball with the PQ when the party tried to force the bill into passage right before calling an election. Bill 52 died on the order paper as a result.

During the 2014 Quebec election campaign, Couillard promised to reintroduce the bill as it was drafted at the earliest possible moment during the new parliamentary session. 

He also got the support from all four parties to reintroduce the bill at the stage it had died, instead of starting from square one. 

It was reintroduced in late May by the new Liberal government.

Liberal Health Minister Gaétan Barrette made that announcement while standing side by side with MNAs from the three other parties.

"Between the four of us, we think the bill will pass strongly,” Barrette said at the time.

Bill 52: An Act respecting end-of-life care

Committee report on dying with dignity 

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