The Current

Quebec MNA argues for medically-assisted dying advance consent

As Canada comes to terms with the reality of legal medically-assisted dying, some say it's time to allow advance consent for people with degenerative cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Quebec MNA François Bonnardel says it's time to talk about including advance consent for people with degenerative cognitive diseases in medically-assisted dying law. (Radio-Canada)

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"I cracked. I gave in to her demand for help in dying. I am waiting for the police." 

A post on Facebook that appears to have been written by Michel Cadotte on Feb. 20, 2017.

Cadotte is accused of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Jocelyne Lizotte.

Lizotte had Alzheimer's disease and according to family members, she had been denied a request for medical aid in dying.

The case of Jocelyne Lizotte has prompted the Quebec government to consider expanding its medically-assisted dying laws and allow advance consent for people with Alzheimer's, dementia and other incurable cognitive diseases.  
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said it is not only a legal question to include advanced consent in current legislation, but a question of humanity. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Revisiting medically-assisted dying legislation is something Quebec MNA François Bonnardel, house leader for the Coalition Avenir Quebec, is very passionate about.  

For him, it's a personal issue. 

His mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 15 years ago and today she can no longer walk, smile or even recognize him. 

"I've seen her getting worse, years after years, not able to talk anymore, " Bonnardel tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. His mother stays in bed for 20 hours a day. 

Bonnardel would like to see advanced consent considered as an option for medically-assisted dying. 
I think my story, and even maybe the story of Mr. Cadotte, is the story of thousands of Canadians.- François Bonnardel

He understands it will be a difficult conversation but says that as his mother's condition deteriorates, he wishes he had discussed the issue with her — and wonders if she would have opted for an assisted death. 

Bonnardel knows that he's not alone.

"I think my story, and even maybe the story of Mr. Cadotte, is the story of thousands of Canadians that supports our caregivers with their spouse or their grandparents hoping that maybe one day we can have a serious discussion concerning medical aid to die."

The idea of advanced consent poses some serious ethical and practical questions — something critics are quick to point out.

But Bonnardel says those important matters can be carefully considered and addressed.

"It's tough ... maybe we will have some abuse," but it is time to have that discussion formally, he says.

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post — including a panel looking into the issues involving advanced consent.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sam Colbert and Montreal network producer Susan McKenzie.