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Quebec government introduces right to die legislation

The government of the Canadian province of Quebec [official website] introduced a bill Wednesday that would permit doctors to provide patients with medical aid to die. Quebec Social Services Minister Veronique Hivon [official profile] introduced the bill before the National Assembly [official website]. The proposed law [Bill 52, PDF] provides special rules on the administration and consent requirements regarding medical aid to die for doctors, hospitals, hospice centers and other institutions that offer end of-life care. Medical aid to die as proposed by the bill differs from assisted suicide legal in four US states, where doctors are allowed to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs which the patient may take on there own. The proposed legislation would allow a doctor to administer medication causing death after receiving the repeated consent of a patient. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal [AP report] in Canada at the federal level.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue around the world. The only European countries that allow assisted suicide are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Last month the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Swiss law does not provide sufficient guidelines on the extent of the right to die, in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. In April the Supreme Court of Ireland rejected an appeal [JURIST report] by a paralyzed woman seeking to allow her partner to help her commit suicide. Although Ireland decriminalized suicide in 1993, it is still a crime to assist another to commit suicide. In December a report released by the French government recommended [JURIST report] that the country permit doctors to "accelerate death" for terminally ill patients seeking doctor-assisted euthanasia. In August the High Court of England and Wales denied [JURIST report] the plea of a paralyzed man challenging the legitimacy of the Suicide Act 1961 and other laws barring his ability to commit suicide.

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