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Home Canadian Quebec legislature approves euthanasia Bill 52 in principle

Quebec legislature approves euthanasia Bill 52 in principle

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Doctor 'surprised' so many voted nay at such an early stage
By Deborah GyapongA statue of St. Joseph is pictured in front of St. Joseph Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal. The province of St. Andre Bessette, who founded the shrine, is considering a step which would have horrified him. CNS photo / Bob Mullen.A statue of St. Joseph is pictured in front of St. Joseph Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal. The province of St. Andre Bessette, who founded the shrine, is considering a step which would have horrified him. CNS photo / Bob Mullen.

The Quebec legislative assembly approved euthanasia Bill 52 "in principle" by an 84-26 vote Oct. 29, but euthanasia opponents see positive signs.

Dr. Marc Beauchamp, president of Living with Dignity, said the vote "was a very pleasant surprise" despite the bad news that the majority of Quebec legislators assembly members had supported the bill.

"We didn't expect that many people would oppose the bill at such an early stage of the process," said the Montreal-based orthopedic surgeon. The grassroots coalition had expected perhaps five or 10.

The minority Parti Quebecois government and the Quebec Solidaire party both forced their members to support the bill, but a majority of Liberals, who allowed a free vote, voted against it.

"A lot of people are starting to feel the unease of being part of such a project," said Dr. Beauchamp.

The vote represented clear proof that claims made by the Parti Quebecois that the whole political class is behind Bill 52 are "totally false," Dr. Beauchamp said. He noted Minister Veronique Hivon "has been working very hard to convince people to follow a consensus that was already there. She pretended the whole legislative assembly was behind the project," he said. "We knew it was false. Until yesterday we did not have any proof of that."

Dr. Beauchamp said he expects opposition to rise. While 26 publicly oppose the bill, many are holding their final decision "because they want to see what goes on with the analysis of the law point by point."

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), noted many assembly members had said they did not like the way Bill 52 was worded, so the government "took that off the table and said you could vote on principle."

"Eighty-four to 26 is nothing to celebrate," he said. "This is still an unconstitutional bill. The government has to realize this bill will be challenged by the government, but also by several physicians' groups that are talking about challenging it."

"Many have realized that if adopted, Bill 52 will be automatically challenged in court because it is illegal and unconstitutional," said the Physicians' Alliance for the Total Refusal of Euthanasia (PATRE) in an Oct. 30 statement. "This would at the same time force a useless and counterproductive federal-provincial confrontation."

"The fact is the division and confusion still prevail, and when the confusion clears up, the number of opponents to the medical murder increases," PATRE said. "Nearly 500 Quebec physicians have signed our statement, and thousands of others support us."

Dr. Beauchamp said the Parti Quebecois has crossed "many red lines" with Bill 52. Merging euthanasia into palliative care is "ethically totally unacceptable," he said. But people are finding out the euphemism "medical aid in dying" really means "forcing medical staff to give lethal injections."

Everyone wants to help dying people and people who are suffering, he said, but the majority of people are uneasy and some have a very negative, normal reaction against promoting "homicidal gestures."

"I am sure many deputies in Quebec are starting to feel that they would participate in something that will be a homicide, medical murder," he said. "They won't want to be involved in that."

"Medical aid in dying is lethal injection and that is medical murder," he said. "Of course linking it with palliative care makes it less obvious."

On the eve of the vote, an Abington Research poll commissioned by LifeCanada, a national educational pro-life organization, showed 47 per cent of Quebec residents said Bill 52 needs further study, while 14 per cent opposed it outright. A minority of 35 per cent were in favour.

The poll exposed problems with the wording "medical aid in dying." Before these words were defined, only 30 per cent answered "correctly" that the words involve "a doctor giving a patient a lethal injection," said an Oct. 28 LifeCanada news release.

"This poll shows the Quebec population has not given its informed consent to 'medical aid in dying,'" said Natalie Sonnen, executive director of LifeCanada.

"Contrary to what may have been assumed, the people have not given the government a mandate to proceed with such a monumental change in medical practice. The representatives of the people should reconsider before they take this step."

Sonnen said polls are citing strong support for the bill. "Once people understand and think about the implications of 'medical aid in dying' they back away from supporting Bill 52."

After respondents were told Bill 52 is based on a Belgian law and that a study showed one-third of those given lethal injections were killed without their consent, 83 per cent "expressed concern" this "might happen in Quebec," the release said.

Schadenberg said the LifeCanada poll showed a big shift in opinion when respondents were told what "medical aid in dying" means. "They start realizing it's not what the media has been telling us."

There has been a constant barrage of pro-euthanasia and pro-assisted-suicide talk in the news media, and that has influenced people significantly, he said.

"This is far from done," Schadenberg said. "The government might amend the bill."

"If they are going to try to legalize euthanasia, the federal government has the jurisdiction. They don't," he said. "In the end it will have to go to the court. The courts should be upholding the purview of the federal government."

There are indications from the federal government that it would fight this, he said. The Harper government doesn't "want to be known as the government that brought in euthanasia to Canada.

"If they leave Quebec alone, [Premier] Kathleen Wynne is talking about Ontario next. Everything's on the line with how they deal with Quebec."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 November 2013 09:17  

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