After two years of public and expert consultation and research, The Dying with Dignity commission of the Quebec National Assembly recommended allowing medically assisted death.
Drs. Ken Flegel, senior associate editor, and John Fletcher, editor in chief, of the Canadian Medical Association Journal said advocates of the approach argue that medically assisted death is a patient's right and should be considered as an end-of-life care option rather than a criminal act.
"Many physicians and patients will find this a shocking prospect to consider," Flegel and Fletcher said in a an editorial in the journal. "Frail, dependent patients often feel a burden to their families or caregivers, and the unspoken possibility of a quick resolution to their predicament may complicate an already stressful situation."
If Quebec decides to adopt the recommendations, legal safeguards must be built in to protect healthcare workers from liability and patients from potential abuses. Public consultation in Quebec as well as national discussion and involvement of federal lawmakers would be needed if changes were to be made to the criminal code, the editors said.
"The ethics of euthanasia are a familiar debate in Canada; one that may have been theoretical, until recently, because of the tacit assumption that doctors do not kill people," the editors said.