Immoral and unconstitutional

By Marc Beauchamp

M. Beauchamp is a doctor and spokesperson for the Collective of Doctors for the Medical Refusal of Euthanasia. M. Racicot is a retired lawyer and spokesperson for the citizen network Living with Dignity.

The Marois government's Bill 52 on «end-of-life care», which deals with the «right to die with dignity», includes a chapter seeking to decriminalize and to legalize forms of active euthanasia.

To confuse the population, euthanasia is being presented under the neologism «medical aid in dying». It is being camouflaged in terms such as «end-of-life care». However, this neologism has no basis in recognized semantics in known medical litterature nor in this country's jurisprudence.

No national or international medical proceedings define or recognize «medical aid in dying». We must therefore denounce «medical aid in dying» for what it really is: a synonym for «active euthanasia».

What's more, the bill introduces the concept of «terminal palliative sedation», an undefined concept within the bill which can bring about much confusion. In so far as the goal of this sedation is to cause death and not to alleviate suffering, it consists of yet another form of «active euthanasia».

It clearly appears that the bill essentially aims, under a misnomer, to remove a prohibition dating back 24 centuries, allowing for a doctor to volontarily bring about the death of his patient.

This bill goes against the principles defended by the Canadian («each person has a right to life») and Quebec charters («all human beings are equal in worth and in dignity» and «each person has the right to life, to integrity[...]of his person...»). The value and dignity of a person does not diminish in terms of his age, his state or his capacities. However, this bill is founded on certain ethical assumptions that go against our charters, notably that «...the interest of the State to preserve life diminishes towards the end of one's life» (Ménard report).

The justifications brought about by minister Hivon to introduce active euthanasia («medical aid in dying») relate to the need of having a humanistic and compassionate approach, implying that the refusal of euthanasia would emphasize a lack of compassion on the part of the medical personnel.

Such an affirmation, which is both abusive and false, undermines the recognition we owe to all those who lavish care with devotion and humanity to all suffering patients in Quebec and who feel with conviction that it musn't be proposed and that we musn't provoke death for people facing end-of-life. No one has the right to question the compassion and humanity which inhabits these health professionals, neither in Quebec, nor elsewhere in the world.

Moreover, the government refuses to consider the problems that will necessarily arise following the implementation of such a law. It minimises the warnings received from numerous medical experts relating to the prejudices that people with physical or mental vulnerabilities may be subjected to - and especially people suffering from judgement problems and depression.

The government also chooses to ignore the warnings against possible misuses. Of course, to obtain medical aid in dying, we'd have to satisfy certain conditions. But these conditions do not apply to palliative terminal sedation and are essentially the same as those which were adopted in Belgium. An imposing amount of international scientific medical litterature demonstrates the inefficiency of guidelines in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands. Permitting medical aid in dying, is opening the door to unavoidable abuses.

By deposing this bill, the government is ignoring the separation of powers between the federal government and the provinces and pretends to ignore that active euthanasia under form of medical aid in dying or in terminal palliative sedation with intent to cause death is a homicide and a criminal action according to the criminal code.

Killing is not a treatment. Killing has nothing to do with the health system and so Quebec therefore does not have the competence to decriminalize euthanasia.

Consequently, we are asking the Quebec elect, and more specifically those in the opposition parties, who have the responsability to protect the population, to vote against the legalisation of euthanasia contained in this bill.