A file picture taken on July 22, 2013 shows a nurse holding the hand of an elderly patient at the palliative care unit of the Argenteuil hospital, outside Paris
A consensus is emerging among Quebec parliamentarians to launch a public debate on the appropriateness of legalizing medically assisted suicide for persons unable to give informed consent, such as patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Without making any commitment, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette opened the door on Thursday for a public debate after calls by the two main opposition parties, the Parti Québécois and the Coalition avenir Québec.
The Quebec law on end-of-life care stipulates that an eligible person who is considered in agony and suffering from an incurable disease must be clear-sighted and must give his or her consent to obtain medical assistance to shorten his or her life.
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette responds to reporters in Quebec City, Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Thus, people suffering from various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are excluded.
Officials would examine the possibility of extending the application of the law to persons who had given prior consent through a living will.
To avoid any issues, it will always be necessary to ensure that the initial request comes from the person in question and not relatives, warned PQ MNA Véronique Hivon.
Hivon helped shape the law on end-of-life care, which had not been adopted unanimously, despite its limited scope and after years of consultations and debates.
Hivon called for a parliamentary committee to analyze the issue, which she described as extremely complex, both medically and ethically.
CAQ MP François Bonnardel, whose mother is suffering from an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, has also called for debate on this delicate issue.
In a news briefing, an emotional Bonnardel said that under the circumstances, he would be ready to seek the help of the doctors to end his mother’s life, if the law allowed it and if she had expressed this desire when she was capable.
There are only two countries in the world to allow medical support in such cases, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The debate on this issue was revived this week when it was learned that a Montreal man, Michel Cadotte, was accused of second-degree murder of his wife who has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for years. He claims to have acted at her request.