How ironic that Québec, the most Roman Catholic province in Canada, is proposing progressive legislation for Alzheimer’s patients.
It’s time for other Canadian provinces and American states to show similar humanity.
Québec’s Health Minister, Christian Dubé, has tabled Bill 38 that would allow patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease to receive an assisted death by allowing written consent to be given before they are mentally and physically incapable of doing so.
Under the proposed rules, a doctor would have to be certain that the patient was requesting death without pressure from any other people. Moreover, patients would be able to reverse this request at any time including at the time of the procedure.
To provide extra precaution, the patient must choose a trusted third party to act on their behalf at the appropriate time.
As long-time readers know, this column has been fighting for a more common-sense approach to MAID (medical assistance in dying) for years.
Current laws across North America ignore so much suffering. The Canadian law is so poorly conceived that it is hard to imagine how it has lasted so long without revision. It allows Alzheimer’s patients to ask for MAID while being mentally coherent and to sign the needed legal documents. But as the disease progresses and patients lose capacity, the request become void.
Any reasonable person would acknowledge the inadequacy.
Alzheimer’s patients need an advanced directive or an advance request for MAID that will be legally valid after their health has deteriorated.
Readers can understand the frustration for Alzheimer’s patients who wish to access MAID. But despite extensive efforts by the medical community and advocates, Canada’s elected Members of Parliament and Senators have not resolved the issue.
Those having read this column for years may recall the suggestions that the Government of Canada be replaced by taxicab drivers, garbage collectors, or veterinarians! The people in these professions have ample common sense. They would change the law in 24 hours.
But it is not only politicians that have fought against access to MAID for Alzheimer’s patients. Ethicists, moralists, and religious people who believe that “only God can decide on life and death” are also responsible. While 80 percent of the population agrees with proposed changes to the legislation, the minority conspire to block access by any and all.
Yet the concerns of this minority can be addressed. First, to be clear, MAID is only an option for those who actively request it. It cannot be imposed on anyone. But if those who are opposed would like to do so, they are free to sign an affidavit stating that they wish never to participate in MAID. But instead, they blow bullhorns. And those in need of assistance languish.
There is something lost in today’s digital society when decision-makers lack connection to the people. Gone are the days when readers responded to a call for better legislation with thousands upon thousands of handwritten letters. But it is impossible to forget reading those personal stories of anguish on stationary where tear marks lingered. And politicians had to respond when one such campaign, for the legalization of heroin to ease the pain of terminal cancer patients, resulted in 40,000 letters on the health minister’s desk.
Now it’s time for the rest of Canada, and the United States, to replicate this same Quebec legislation.
Congratulations to Québec’s Minister of Health, Christian Dubé and to Dying with Dignity Canada for continuing efforts to achieve access to MAID. For Alzheimer’s patience wishing MAID, let’s facilitate the dignity of a peaceful end of life, just as the law now allows for others.