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Medical assistance in dying | Targeting “neuromotor” disabilities could be discriminatory



(Quebec) Allowing only people with a severe and incurable “neuromotor” disability to access expanded eligibility for medical assistance in dying could be deemed discriminatory and lead to legal challenges, warns the Office des people with disabilities in Quebec. This notion, which is being debated, should be studied in a “forum” parallel to the parliamentary committee studying Bill 11, the Liberals propose.

The member of the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), Jennifer Maccarone, proposed Wednesday to the Minister for Health and Seniors, Sonia Bélanger, to deepen the delicate question of neuromotor disabilities, which are not defined by her draft law. Like former PQ MP Véronique Hivon, who testified Tuesday in a parliamentary committee, Maccarone believes that we must “take the time to listen to all the experts and all the people interested in the issue of access to medical assistance in dying so that this law can reflect as accurately as possible the values ​​and the will of all Quebecers.

“This bill touches on complex and sensitive elements, some of which we have never debated in the history of the National Assembly,” said the Liberal.

On Tuesday, on the second day of public hearings on Bill 11, the Office des personnes Handicapés du Québec also asked the government to “define or circumscribe [une] list of medical diagnoses that [définissent] the concept of “neuromotor disability”. According to the Agency’s understanding, the government’s intention would be to refer to certain diagnoses such as “traumatic paraplegia, traumatic quadriplegia, paralysis of a traumatic limb, amputation of traumatic origin, cerebral palsy, spinal malformation and paralysis, paresis, chromosomal disorders, multiple impairments including neuromotor disorder”.

However, “the Office does not have any data or research results demonstrating that this group of disabled people has particular characteristics with regard to constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering which differentiates them from other disabled people with disabilities important and who may eventually be eligible for medical assistance in dying,” he said.

“Targeting this specific group in this way is potentially discriminatory with regard to other segments of this population under the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights and freedoms and gives rise to legal action if this solution is not based on a rigorous and inclusive approach in the medium term”, added the Office.

On Tuesday, the College of Physicians of Quebec asked parliamentarians to expand access to medical assistance in dying for people with severe disabilities, rather than only people with severe and incurable “neuromotor” disabilities.

Bill 11, in a nutshell

  • The government is proposing to extend medical assistance in dying to people with serious and incurable diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and to people with severe and incurable neuromotor disabilities. It also proposes allowing citizens to make an advance request for medical assistance in dying.
  • The bill does not list the conditions or illnesses that would now qualify. It also excludes mental disorders from the enlargement planned to access this care.
  • Quebec also proposes to require palliative care homes to offer medical assistance in dying. According to the Alliance of palliative care homes in Quebec, 25 of the 35 palliative care homes in Quebec already offer it.
  • Bill 11 also removes the criterion of imminent end of life from the conditions that a person must meet to obtain medical assistance in dying. It also allows specialized nurse practitioners to administer it.

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