RSS Feed

Quebec legal panel supports medically assisted death

QUEBEC—A panel of legal experts in Quebec is recommending that people suffering from an incurable or degenerative illness be allowed to ask for medical assistance to help them die.

However, the panel says the final decision should be left up to doctors.

Tuesday’s recommendations follow a landmark report in Quebec from last March that suggested doctors be allowed in exceptional circumstances to help the terminally ill die if that is what the patients want.

The report opened the door to euthanasia, which is specifically called medically assisted death.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code.

Quebec’s junior health minister, Véronique Hivon, said Tuesday’s legal opinion paves the way for the province to table a bill on the controversial topic in the next few months.

It’s a debate that Canadians have grappled with for nearly two decades.

In June, Justice Lynn Smith, of the B.C. Supreme Court, ruled that current right-to-die laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional. She said the law’s provisions “unjustifiably infringe on the equality rights of Gloria Taylor and the rights of life, liberty and security of the person.”

In her ruling, Smith granted Taylor, 64, a constitutional exemption to proceed with physician-assisted suicide. However, no one else can avail of the exemption. She placed a 12-month suspension on her ruling to give Parliament time to write new legislation, or for the anticipated appeals.

In 1992, assisted suicide hit the national radar when Sue Rodriguez, a B.C. woman, fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada for the right to kill herself. Rodriguez, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, lost 5-4 in a split decision. She killed herself in 1994 with the help of an unidentified physician. – News