Dying With Dignity Canada welcomes Quebec’s plan to allow advance requests for assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada welcomes the Quebec government’s plan to permit advance requests for assisted dying.

On Friday, Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann announced a multi-partisan effort to expand the province’s assisted dying law to allow for advance requests for medical assistance in dying (MAID). Such a change would allow eligible patients to make a request for MAID that could be honoured later, after they have lost mental capacity.

The leading national charity defending end-of-life rights in Canada, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) is encouraged by Quebec lawmakers’ moves to break down unfair barriers imposed by the province’s pioneering 2014 MAID law.

“We applaud Quebec for once again showing national leadership in the field of end-of-life choice,” said retired Senator James Cowan, chair of DWDC’s Board of Directors. “We strongly encourage provincial lawmakers to make good on their commitment to respect the rights of suffering Quebecers whose choice has been unfairly denied because of the ban on advance requests.”

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 ruling in Carter v. Canada recognized MAID as a constitutionally protected right for consenting adult patients who have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes them enduring, intolerable suffering. However, because of the ban on advance requests for assisted dying, that right remains out of reach for many people whose illnesses threaten to rob them of capacity. 

“Without advance requests for assisted dying, many people with conditions like Alzheimer’s or congestive heart failure will be unfairly denied their right to a peaceful death,” said Cowan. “They should have the option to make arrangements now that will spare them months or years of intolerable suffering later.”

The Quebec government’s announcement came on the same day that Minister McCann tabled an expert report on the future of the province’s MAID rules. Prepared by leaders in the field of medicine, law, psychology, and social work, the report features 14 recommendations — including a call to legalize advance requests for people who’ve been diagnosed with “a serious and incurable illness.” Minister McCann said the government plans to hold a series of public consultations to get Quebecers’ feedback on the proposals.

“We thank the panelists for the considerable time, thought, and effort they put into preparing the report,” Cowan said. “These thoughtful, compassionate recommendations should serve as a basis for a dialogue on advance requests not just in Quebec, but across Canada.”