By Kaitlyn Schaeffer
The Quebec national assembly could pass Bill 52, also known as the ‘Dying With Dignity’ Act, as early as this week. The Act was informed by both European and American legislation concerning medical aid in dying. Like the European model, Bill 52 takes “unbearable suffering” to be the key factor for requesting aid in dying, and would legalize both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The difference between the methods is who administers the fatal medication: in euthanasia, the doctor gives it to the patient via injection or IV, and in physician-assisted suicide, the patient delivers the dosage to him or herself. Similar to physician-assisted suicide legislation in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, Bill 52 only applies to “competent adults,” and requires that patients “be at the end of life.” The end of life requirement was added in an amendment to bring the bill more in line with public opinion on the issue, which shows overwhelming support for assistance in dying but only if the patient is terminally ill. The amendment would thus exclude people with things like clinical depression from medical assistance in dying. However, the amendment was not clarified further, leaving it open to interpretation that some believe is too vague.
Dr. Catherine Ferrier, a geriatric physician and president of the Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia has concerns: “Half my geriatric patients could be considered at the end of life… This bill is written by people who don’t understand medicine. Under the current criteria anyone could ask for euthanasia.”
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