“This bill, as it is right now, it’s probably a landmark but surely not the end of the reflection,” said Yves Robert, secretary of the College, which supports the bill. “It’s only a step. There are many questions that are still unanswered.”
As Quebecers become accustomed to doctors administering lethal injections to dying patients, the questions will not be about who is receiving euthanasia but who is being denied it, Dr. Robert said.
He raised the example of a patient suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease who would not be eligible for euthanasia under the Quebec law because he is no longer legally capable of giving consent. Another example is the requirement that patients be adults, meaning those under 18 who are terminally ill and suffering would not be eligible.
“We will have to think about that, not only for [incapable] adults but obviously for youngsters who face terminal diseases,” Dr. Robert said.
Under Bill 52, in addition to being an adult and mentally fit, a patient seeking euthanasia — the bill calls it “medical aid in dying” — must suffer from an incurable serious illness and be in constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain. He must also be in an advanced state of irreversible decline and be at the end of life.
Veronique Hivon, Québec’s Junior Health Minister thinks that Bill 52 is very restrictive, but Nic Steenhout, the director-general of the group Vivre dans la Dignité in Quebec stated:
“Considering that Bill 52 is so closely modelled after the law in Belgium and considering that there has been a lot of abuse in Belgium in the last 10 years … we are certainly concerned about the possibility of that happening in Quebec,”
His group recently launched a video featuring physicians opposed to Bill 52, including Balfour Mount, considered a world pioneer of palliative care. Dr. Mount said there is no need for euthanasia because suffering can be minimized through palliative care. It would be a “disastrous mistake” to legalize euthanasia, he warned.
“Legalizing euthanasia places at risk the most vulnerable among us, the elderly, the handicapped, those unable to speak for themselves, those who feel they’re a burden to their loved ones,” he said.