Tuesday September 7, 2010
Euthanasia Debate Heats Up in Quebec
This week, a committee of Quebec's National Assembly begings public consultations on a controversial proposal to allow patients with terminal diseases to request a doctor's help to die. First, a bit of context. There's a good deal of support for euthanasia in Quebec. A poll by Leger Marketing found more than 70% of Quebecois suppport decriminalization of doctor-assisted euthanasia.Surprisingly for some, Quebec doctors, while not outright in favour, are probably more comfortable than most doctors in the rest of Canada in considering proposals to allow euthanaisa or doctor-assisted suicide.
Quebec's Federation of Medical Specialists has publicly supported government legialation for it in '"exceptional circumstances". Last year the Quebec College of Physicians said it was in favour of euthanasia for a patient when death is immiment and nothing can be done to relieve his or her suffering. So the fact that organized medicine in Quebec is calling for serious proposals for some form of doctor-assisted euthanasia mirrors attitudes in the society as a whole.
But here's the thing: Quebec cannot change the Criminal Code. Only the federal government can do that. Frankly, I see no appetite in Ottawa for making euthanasia legal. However, in the face of strong public support for euthanasia, Quebec law enforcement and the Ministry of Justice could make it clear they won't enforce existing criminal law. Then, things could get very interesting.
For more, read this article from the National Post
And listen to my interview last year with Dr. Yves Robert, head of the Quebec College of Physicians.