Introduction

Webcast archive: Québec hospices refuse to euthanize

This week, we discuss the fates of two bills and a new development from Quebec.

Webcast archive: Québec hospices refuse to euthanize

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Québec hospices refuse to euthanize
  • Euthanasia kits
  • The latest nursing home scandal

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.

A note before we start:  You’ll notice that all of our topics today relate to events in Québec.  The reason we’re focusing on Québec is that it’s the first province in Canada to put medical killing into action.

Governments of other provinces, states and countries around the world will be watching what happens in Québec.  We believe that letting people know what’s going on here will help them prepare for what may happen if medical killing becomes legal in their regions.

HOSPICES IN QUÉBEC REFUSE TO OFFER EUTHANASIA

  • All 29 hospices in Québec have unanimously declared that they will not perform euthanasia on their patients.
  • In addition, doctors in the palliative care unit at the hospital at the Université de Montréal say that they won’t offer what the law calls “medical aid in dying.”
  • The palliative care centres will inform people upon admission that euthanasia is not among the services they offer. If a person decides later that s/he wants to be killed, the person can be transferred to a hospital.
  • Veronique Hivon, the former Péquiste minister who shepherded Bill 52 to its passage in 2014, said she was surprised by the Hospices decision.
  • Apparently Ms. Hivon forgot that the Hospice association members unanimously opposed euthanasia during the hearings before the National Assembly’s Health and social service committee.
  • The National Assembly ultimately gave an exemption to hospice programs to choose (or not) to perform euthanasia. They also allowed doctors to refuse to kill their patients if it goes against their conscience.
  • Based on the reactions of Ms. Hivon and Health Minister Barrette, it appears they didn’t expect the palliative care doctors would actually call their bluff.
  • Both Members of the national assembly made veiled threats of withdrawal of funds and other punishments for refusing. Minister Barrette stated that “Doctors must respect the will of the people.”
  • The Act Concerning End-of-Life Care will go into effect in three months. As the date approaches, the reality becomes more concrete, and what were vague worries last year have become real problems to be resolved.  Since the government has only issued a small part of the necessary regulations, doctors, administrators and the public are beginning to wonder “how does an extermination program work?”

EUTHANASIA KITS FOR QUÉBEC DOCTORS

  • Articles in English-language newspapers this week indicated that the Québec Collège des médecins would distribute “euthanasia kits” to doctors, with drugs and supplies to euthanize people.
  • The first article appeared on August 28 in the National Post. Author Sharon Kirkey quoted Dr. Yves Robert, Secretary of the Collège des médecins, who described a guide that would be published on the collège’s website on September 10.
  • The article also described a “standard euthanasia kit” that would include:
    • A benzodiazepine (such as Valium) to calm, relax and put the person to sleep;
    • A barbiturate to put the person into a coma;
    • A drug related to curare, to stop the heart and breathing of the person;
    • Syringes, needles and enough drugs for two tries (in case the first one doesn’t work?).
  • Several English-language media outlets outside Québec picked up the story, which elicited a good deal of concern.
  • After that, articles in Québec newspapers starting on September 1 cited the president of the Collège des Médecins, Charles Bernard, who said that there would be no “euthanasia kits.”
  • In addition, he “invited” the media to “not identify the first people to avail themselves of medical aid in dying” and to not “sensationalize it.”

THE LATEST NURSING HOME SCANDAL

  • “Elderly people tied up for no reason. Wheelchairs locked to prevent people from moving around, layers of diapers for less-frequent changes.  This was the daily horror people lived with for years in a nursing home in Abitibi.”
  • This is how David Prince began his September 1 article in the Journal de Montréal, where he described the latest nursing home scandal here in Québec.
  • The article describes not only mistreatment of residents of the Harricana Nursing Home in Amos, but also intimidation of family members who tried to put a stop to the abuse.
  • The residents had their eyeglasses and hearing aids taken away, and the staff gave them only 15 minutes to finish eating, before taking away their plates and saying “you’re not hungry anymore.”
  • The abuses continued for years. Residents and their families were afraid of reprisals if they complained.
  • Unfortunately, during his complaints against palliative care doctors who refuse to kill people, Minister Barrette didn’t seem to make the connection between the abuses in nursing homes and requests for euthanasia.