Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Medical assistance in dying: Quebec is impatient and demands an exceptional measure in Ottawa

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The government of Quebec demands that the federal government make an amendment to the Criminal Code to allow it to move forward with advance requests for medical assistance in dying this fall.

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  • Valérie Gamache (View profile)Valérie Gamache
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    Quebec will be ready to move forward sooner than expected with advance requests for medical assistance in dying. To achieve this, the province is demanding that Ottawa make an amendment to the Criminal Code that will apply only to Quebec.

    Starting next fall, the Quebec government estimates that it will be able to give the green light to health professionals to process advance requests for people suffering from a cognitive illness leading to incapacity such as Alzheimer's. , a little less than a year faster than expected. But Quebec is stuck because the federal government does not seem inclined to modify the Criminal Code to allow it to move forward.

    Faced with the lack of openness from their federal counterparts, Quebec ministers Sonia Bélanger, delegate for Health, Simon Jolin-Barrette, for Justice, and Jean-François Roberge, responsible for Canadian Relations, will ask the federal government to have recourse to conditional legislation. That is to say, the Criminal Code would authorize advance requests only in provinces which, like Quebec, wish to allow them.

    This is the same type of measure that governs, for example, the regulations on lotteries in Canada. This would result in the measure being prohibited unless a provincial government decides to authorize it. Thus, this would not force a province to follow suit if it does not consider itself ready to do so, while allowing provinces that wish to do so to move forward.

    Quebec is in a hurry and, to achieve its goals, the Legault government is asking the federal Minister of Health to make an amendment to its bill tabled last week, which aims to extend the eligibility period for people with mental disorders by three years to include this provision.

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    The bill from the Minister for Health, Sonia Bélanger, to allow advance requests for medical assistance in dying was adopted last June in the National Assembly.

    This public outing by Quebec ministers comes at the end of discussions through which they say they have perceived no desire from their federal counterparts to move to authorize Quebec to implement its policy on advance requests. Despite several attempts, whether through meetings, official letters or email exchanges between the different cabinets, the federal government has shown no openness, it is suggested.

    In Quebec, from 2021, the report of the Special Commission on medical assistance in dying recommended that an adult can make an advance request if they suffer from a serious illness that will render you incapacitated. And the idea caught on, so much so that already a year ago, in Ottawa, the report of the independent joint committee on medical assistance in dying went in exactly the same direction.

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    Luc Thériault is a federal member of the Bloc Québécois for the riding of Montcalm and vice-president of the joint committee on medical assistance in dying.

    Inaction of the Trudeau government exasperates Luc Thériault, the vice-president of the joint committee on medical assistance in dying. We talk about social consensus, well there is a consensus "coast to coast"on advance requests. What is the government waiting for? said the Bloc MP in an interview with Radio-Canada. He notes that only Conservative MPs have systematically shown reluctance.

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    There was broad consensus. Apart from the conservatives who are against everything, there was a consensus.

    A quote from Luc Thériault, member of the Bloc Québécois, vice-president of the joint committee on medical assistance in dying

    The Bloc member denounces the lack of political will from Justin Trudeau. I hope that the Liberals will regain the little courage they had at the beginning on this issue, he said. The MP is worried about the election deadline. According to him, it is essential that a bill, to amend the Criminal Code and thus protect health professionals from prosecution, be adopted before the next elections.

    Luc Thériault fears that the coming to power of a conservative government will indefinitely postpone access to medical assistance in dying. There are people who are suffering, it would be stupid if they couldn't have access to it, he concludes.

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