Province should consider 'advanced consent' for Alzheimer's patients in assisted dying law, urges MNA

CAQ MNA François Bonnardel said he believes it's time to reopen the province’s doctor-assisted dying law and consider adding a section that would give people the right to consent in advance.

'Now, in 2017, it’s time to have this discussion again': CAQ MNA François Bonnardel

CAQ MNA François Bonnardel says the discussion about advanced consent may be difficult for some, but it is time to have it. (Radio-Canada)

Granby MNA François Bonnardel personally knows the toll Alzheimer's disease can take on a family.

Bonnardel's mother was diagnosed with the disease about 15 years ago, and it has progressed to the point that she no longer walks, laughs or recognizes him at all.

Earlier this week, a Montreal man was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of his wife, who family members say had been living Alzheimer's.

Bonnardel said in the wake of that incident, he believes it's time to reopen the province's doctor-assisted dying law and consider adding a section that would give people the right to consent in advance.

"I'm sure the discussion will be difficult for lots of people, but for me, I think that right now, in 2017, it's time to have the discussion again," said Bonnardel, a member of the Coalition Avenir Québec, in an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the debate around advance consent is "very delicate."

"If all political parties agree it's time to put the question back on the table, we can and will have that discussion," said Couillard.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said the issue of whether to include advanced consent in current legislation is not just a legal question, but a question of humanity. (Radio-Canada)

No advanced consent in Quebec nor in Canada

Canada and Quebec currently have two separate laws governing medical assistance in dying.

Quebec's law, which is narrower than the recently passed federal version, requires that applicants "be at the end of life."

The federal law restricts doctor-assisted death to adults with a "foreseeable" death.

Neither law allows for advance consent, which would allow terminally ill patients to express their interest in medical aid in dying while they are still cognitively competent.

Alzheimer's patients still have quality of life

Line Vincelli, the owner and manager of La Résidence Outremont, a home that caters mainly to people living with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, said it's still possible to maintain a good quality of life, even with the disease.
Michel Cadotte, 55, is accused of killing his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte. A family member told CBC News she had been living with Alzheimer's disease. (Facebook)

She said that, if advance consent is allowed, people receiving a diagnosis will sign up for a medically assisted death out of fear that they will eventually hurt their family otherwise.

"They will make the decision for their children, just not to be a burden," said Vincelli.

She believes that, if more money and resources were available to family and caretakers, there would be fewer people who would consider advanced consent.

Question of humanity

Bonnardel said he regrets that after his mother was diagnosed, he never discussed with her what she would have wanted and what quality of life she would have accepted in the years to come.

If she had given advanced consent to die, Bonnardel said, it would have been difficult to accept, but now he understands.

Couillard said this debate is not only about a law, it's also a question of humanity and how we and our parents want to be treated.

"There's hope that exists. The solution isn't always to put an end to your life," said Couillard. "There can be other solutions."

"But I am not closed to the discussion."   

With files from CBC's Daybreak and Radio-Canada