Sonia Bélanger, the Quebec minister responsible for health and seniors, tabled Bill 11 on Thursday, which would allow those diagnosed with serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, to give their advanced consent to medical assistance in dying (MAID) before they become incapacitated.
Quebec has the highest number of MAID deaths per capita in the world, according to Michel Bureau, president of the province’s Commission on End of Life Care. Over 5 percent of all deaths in the province are due to MAID.
Since Quebec passed its own legislation in 2016, the use of MAID has risen sharply. According to the most recent Health Canada data, Quebec’s use of MAID increased by 44 percent in 2021, compared to 32 percent nationally. A total of 9,741 Quebecers have died by MAID since 2016, with 494 MAID deaths in 2016 and 3,281 in 2021.
Currently, Quebec law requires informed consent for MAID, which is not possible in the advanced stages of degenerative diseases. Bélanger said the proposed legislation is based on expert opinions and citizen input, and that the province will now have the opportunity to continue their reflection with different groups.
Quebec and Canada are both considering expanding MAID in the coming months and years. MAID is currently available for mentally competent adults with serious physical illnesses undergoing unbearable physical or mental suffering in an advanced state of decline that cannot be reversed. In March, eligibility is set to expand to patients suffering from mental illness, who do not necessarily have any other conditions.
Dr. Louis Roy of the Quebec College of Physicians suggested MAID should be considered for babies born with severe deformities and very serious syndromes for which the chances of survival are virtually nil. MP Garnett Genuis responded that killing a child is always wrong, no matter the circumstances, and that disability is no justification for killing children.
Opponents of MAID expressed similar views in response to a report tabled on February 15th by the parliamentary committee on MAID. The report suggested the government research experiences of minors with respect to MAID, including minors with terminal illnesses, minors with disabilities, minors in the child welfare system, and Indigenous minors. Inclusion Canada, an organization that advocates for the disabled, called it a “discriminatory disaster,” and MP Michael Cooper, who presented the Conservative Party’s dissenting report, called the committee’s recommendations “reckless.”