Advance consent for medical aid in dying should be expanded for Quebec adults, committee says

December 8, 2021
Advance consent for medical aid in dying should be expanded for Quebec adults, committee says
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Adults should be allowed to make an advance request for medical assistance in dying in Quebec following the diagnosis of an incurable and incapacitating disease, a special committee recommends.

The recommendation is one of 11 in a report tabled at the National Assembly on Wednesday by an all-party committee looking into expanding medical assistance in dying (MAID) laws in the province. 

Currently, the Quebec law requires a person to be able to provide informed consent at the time of receiving MAID, which excluded degenerative illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease.

The new recommendation would allow people to make arrangements for the procedure before they are no longer able to give consent, due to their disease. 

“The commission recommends that the individual clearly identify the manifestations of his or her medical condition that should give rise to his or her advance application,” said the committee.

A trusted third party would be responsible for determining when MAID should be administered, based on criteria determined in advance by the patient.

The committee also recommends that an advisory should be noted on the back of provincial health cards when advanced consent request has been granted. 

In March, the committee, chaired by Nancy Guillemette, a Coalition Avenir Québec MNA, and comprised of several other MNAs, was tasked with presiding over hearings on potential amendments that would widen access to MAID to include people suffering from incapacitating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, and those suffering from mental disorders.

The special committee rejected the idea of extending the advance consent option to people whose only medical problem is a mental disorder.

Quebec was the first province in Canada to pass a law legalizing assisted dying in 2014. That legislation too was the product of an all-party committee.

The federal government revamped its medical assistance in dying law in March 2021, removing the requirement for a person’s natural death to be “reasonably foreseeable” in order to qualify.

But Ottawa tabled the question of whether to allow people with mental illness to seek medical assistance in dying, referring it to a parliamentary committee for study. 

The committee has two years to come up with a plan.

Members of the non-partisan special committee will speak to the media in a joint news conference at 1 p.m. in Quebec City.

The members of the committee include Guillemette, vice-chair Quebec Liberal MNA David Birnbaum and other members including Québec Solidaire MNA Vincent Marissal and Parti Québécois MNA Véronique Hivon.

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