MONTREAL, QC June 12, 2013 – The Catholic Civil Rights League has serious concerns about the Quebec government’s introduction of legislation to legalize euthanasia in that province under certain conditions.
Junior Health Minister Véronique Hivon, in introducing Bill 52 – “An act respecting end-of-life care” – said it includes the creation of a “Commission de fin de vie,” with a mandate “to examine all questions relative to end-of-life care and to oversee application of the special requirements relative to medical assistance to die.”
It prescribes, notably, the conditions allowing a person to obtain medical assistance to die as well as the requirements that must be respected before a doctor can administer it.
“If this proposal becomes law, Quebec would be putting some of its most vulnerable citizens – the terminally ill, the frail elderly and the handicapped – in danger of being pressured to end their lives prematurely,” said Joanne McGarry, League executive director. The League has always supported respect for life at every stage, and a greater commitment to palliative and other end of life care, as well as support for the disabled and their families.
The legislation would allow doctors to administer lethal drugs to patients whose lives are nearing the end and who are in excruciating pain that cannot be relieved by drugs. Among other conditions, the patient must be of legal age, lucid and make the request over a period of time.
The bill, which deals broadly with end-of-life care, stipulates that all patients have a right to palliative care, and would also expand access to palliative services across the province. It would also bring formal rules that govern how and when doctors can sedate patients until they die of natural causes.
While the expansion of palliative care is positive – fear of being a burden to family members and of not having adequate pain relief and general care are both major reasons why some people believe euthanasia and assisted suicide must be available – the League believes that the inclusion of provisions for euthanasia in the bill are unnecessary and dangerous.
Also of concern to the League, while this proposed legislation allows doctors to refuse to participate in euthanasia requests, it implies that they must participate in a process referring the request to a more willing provider. There appears to be no provision for the religious and conscientious rights of other members of the health care team. As we have seen on the question of abortion, legalization can lead to pressure on health care workers to participate in activities they find morally objectionable.
Information about Bill, including text in English.
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information:
Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org