Medical assistance in dying: Quebec doctors disappointed after the loss of a controversial article on the bill

The College of Physicians of Quebec says it is disappointed with the province’s health minister after he backtracked on a controversial section of his bill to expand medical assistance in dying.

Last week, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced he was withdrawing a clause granting eligibility to people with severe neuromotor impairment, such as quadriplegia, just 24 hours before the bill was tabled at the National Assembly.

The minister said the change was because he had heard the concerns of opposition parties and did not want to let Bill 38 ‘slide’ and not be voted on before the end of the session of June 10.

His goal, he says, was to bring everyone together.

This came after opposition parties said last Thursday they were surprised neuromotor disabilities had been added, as the issue had not yet been debated in Quebec.

Dubé then said he made a mistake listening to the College of Physicians of Quebec, which pushed hard for severe neuromotor impairments to be included in the bill’s 50 articles. He added that there was a legal vagueness between the Quebec and federal governments.

Dubé said he was listening to what the doctors on the ground were going through, though.

“Some people were able to access [medical aid in dying] with the existing law, but some doctors were really uncomfortable with that. I think it’s a matter of precision,” he said.

Dubé then said he had explained to the director of the College that he could not risk the bill going off the rails and that they would reconsider the matter when Quebecers were ready.

On Tuesday, the College of Physicians set out its position.

“The College is extremely disappointed with the withdrawal of a component concerning neuromotor disabilities and reiterates that it wishes the necessary harmonization of federal and provincial laws on MAID,” wrote President Dr. Mauril Gaudreault on the group’s website.

“The current Act respecting end-of-life care is more restrictive than the Criminal Code for its eligibility criteria” which provides that “any person with serious and irremediable medical conditions may be eligible for MAID. incurable character. »

“This particular situation in Quebec creates confusion and great discomfort among physicians when the time comes to assess a person’s eligibility to receive MAID. For the College, there cannot be two laws for the same suffering.

The general objective of Bill 38 is to allow people with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, to request MAID early, with prior consent, before they can no longer do so.

Currently, you have to be able to consent when obtaining MAID, with a few exceptions.

Former Quebec MP Geoff Kelley, who helped draft Quebec’s first law on medical assistance in dying, also weighed in on the issue on Tuesday, saying he wonders if it will be difficult to get prior consent .

Kelley said he thinks it could put a lot of pressure on medical professionals, third parties and family to decide when to draw the line and let go.