Lifestyle & Belief

Quebec's 'right to die' euthanasia law could be Canada's first

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This picture taken in April 2005 shows a euthanasia kit available in Belgian pharmacies for general practitioners who want to practise euthanasia at patients' homes. Now patients in the Netherlands will have access to a specialised mobile euthanasia unit it they satisfy strict criteria.

Credit:

ETIENNE ANSOTTE

Quebec's government has introduced and is now weighing a "right-to-life" bill that would allow patients to request a form of medically-supervised euthanasia.

If it passes, the province will be the first in Canada to legalize the practice, which, like assisted suicide, is currently illegal in the country.

According to the Globe and Mail, Quebec has entered unchartered waters with the proposed legislation that would allow a patient who was both at an advanced stage of dying, and in great pain, to end his life.

It would also protect physicians from criminal prosecution who help assist those patients.

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"Bill 52" addresses the ethical and moral dilemmas associated with euthanasia and outlines strict criteria for who, and who would not, be eligible. For example, merely being in terrible pain would not make a person eligible under the new legislation.

Social Services Minister Véronique Hivon said under the current law euthanasia "is not provided for…is not forbidden in the Criminal Code" and that the decision was up to each province.

The bill has sparked questions about euthanasia and how it differs from assisted suicide. While euthanasia requires a doctor to end a life at the patients' request, assisted suicide patients end their lives themselves with help from the physician.

The bill appears to have support from a majority of Quebec’s lawmakers, but could face opposition from a minority of doctors and conservative groups.