Euthanasia: an idea whose time has come?

WCBA travels to Montreal for two important stories that shine a light on two different aspects of a health care system under strain.

Previous episodes of WCBA have dealt with ageing and ageism in health care, and the growing problem of providing care that's regarded as medically futile. This show, we explore yet another aspect of these two issues, with a look at a major development in controversial practice known as active euthanasia, which is sometimes referred to as mercy killing.

In 2002, the Netherlands legalized euthanasia. Euthanasia is still a criminal offence but the Dutch Euthanasia Act states that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are not punishable provided an agreed-upon process is followed. It includes a requirement that euthanasia arise from the patient's request, the patient's suffering is unbearable and hopeless, the patient is provided with information and reasonable alternatives, and that another physician is consulted before the final decision is made.

In October, the Quebec College of Physicians released a document. that was three years in the making in which the College concludes that when death is both inevitable and imminent, hastening death could be considered appropriate medical care.

Read the CBC story

To my knowledge, this is the first time that a province in Canada has come out with such a statement.

Tune into the show this week for my interview with College Secretary Dr. Yves Robert. Or listen to a longer version of that interview here now:

Of course, a move like this doesn't go unnoticed. A group of 100 Quebec physicians signed a public letter to their College, asking it to reconsider. You can hear their side of the story too on the show this week. Let us know what you think. Email us at whitecoat@cbc.ca, or post a reply to this blog entry.

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