The Quebec government says it believes it has found a way of not running afoul of the federal government after a legal panel recommended that a terminally ill patient has the right to die.
Provincial junior health minister Veronique Hivon said Tuesday the panel determined that provinces have the legal jurisdiction to legislate in matters of health and that the future Quebec legislation would clarify how acts to end a life wouldn’t be considered suicide.
The report states “the Quebec legislature has the constitutional power to organize the required legal framework for end-of-life care within the health-care system.”
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code. Julie Di Mambro, a spokeswoman for federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, said Tuesday the government’s position remains the same.
“This is a painful and divisive issue that has been thoroughly debated in Parliament,” she said. “We respect Parliament’s decision.”
Hivon said the Quebec government can now pass a law with strict guidelines that will respect the wishes of the dying to shorten their suffering and provide doctors with a clear legal framework.
Under the recommendations, patients would have to make the request in writing to a doctor on the basis of unbearable physical or psychological suffering. Two physicians would have to approve the request.
Doctors would not face criminal charges in these circumstances, the report said. Any law should state that the refusal, interruption, abstention from care or the application of a terminal sedative in those circumstances could not be considered a suicide.
The Quebec panel, which was headed by lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard, said people suffering from an incurable or degenerative illness should be allowed to ask for medical assistance to help them die.