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Health

March 6, 2014

Journalist: Quebec will pass end-of-life legislation

PLATTSBURGH — Death with dignity and physician-assisted death were the themes of the annual Distinguished Quebec Address at SUNY Plattsburgh on Wednesday afternoon.

André Picard, award-winning health columnist for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, delivered “Medical Aid in Dying: Quebec’s Divisive End of Life Debate” at Krinovitz Recital Hall in Hawkins Hall.

Bill 52: an Act Respecting End of Life Care has been in development and discussion in Quebec for four years.

It was on the verge of a final vote in the Quebec National Assembly until that body’s session was suspended because the government planned to call a provincial election, which it did Wednesday morning.

The legislation would allow physician-assisted deaths if four criteria are met:

• That the individual is competent and making the choice of his or her own free will.

• That the person is in the late stages of an incurable condition and nearing death.

• That at least two physicians have been consulted and agree on the diagnosis and are willing to administer a lethal dose of medication.

• That the patient waits 15 days between the request and action.

While most medical groups oppose the idea of physician-assisted death, Quebec is one of the few places where they support it, Picard said, as do most politicians.

“The reality is that this bill will be passed in the near future because all the parties in Quebec support it,” he said, adding that not all are in support of all of its provisions.

‘WANT A CHOICE’

According to Canadian criminal code, while suicide is not a crime, it is a crime to aid and abet a suicide. Picard said Canada’s federal government has stated it has no intention of changing that.

Quebec plans to circumvent that by instructing its provincial crown attorneys to not prosecute doctors who assist in a death as long as the four criteria are met.

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