Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quebec Legalizes Physician Assisted Suicide

Life of Dignity

Dr. Balfour M. Mount, Emeritus Professor of Palliative Medicine. McGill University: “There’s no need [to legalize euthanasia] because of pain and symptom control. We’re able to control the suffering, and through palliative care with a skilled team able to minimise suffering that’s physical, psychological, social, spiritual, existential,” he says. “If there is an exception, palliative sedation is legal. It’s part of palliative care—it doesn’t need a legislative change.”
Photo Credit & Source: McGill University

An article, by Brigitte Noël, in Vice News says that Quebec has become the first province in Canada to legalize physician assisted suicide, or PAS. This news was immediately met with disapproval by front-line doctors working in palliative care, saying the law sends a “contradictory message.”

In “Doctors Mount Opposition As Quebec Prepares For New Assisted Death Law (September 3, 2015), Noël writes
This week, Quebec’s palliative care homes declared they would not be offering the service within their walls, a stance echoed by the palliative care unit at the Montreal University Health Centre (known as its French acronym, the CHUM), one of the province's largest hospitals. 
While the independent centers' position is unsurprising — they had successfully lobbied to be exempted from the new law — the CHUM's rejection proves more problematic. When the legislation comes into effect on Dec. 10, hospitals will be legally obligated to provide the treatment. 
The provincial health minister came out against CHUM's palliative unit's statement, calling it "totally ridiculous."
“If they go ahead with this, they could face sanctions,” Gaetan Barrette told La Presse. He also told reporters he wished palliative care homes would rethink their position. But the tug-of-war leaves medical professionals wondering where hospitals will house the new service, and how individual doctors' rejection of the practice will be handled. Palliative care physician Claude Baillargeon, who works at CHUM, told VICE News that while he is not against the option of medically assisted death, he doesn't think his department is the right host for the procedure.
“People in palliative care don’t ask us to die, they're usually very happy to live those final moments surrounded by their loved ones, free of physical suffering,” says Baillargeon. He explains that for palliative care professionals, the goal is to provide a peaceful environment for the patients and their families, and that adding medically-assisted death to the ward would change the atmosphere. “We find it unacceptable that this would be done in a bed within this care unit, it's such a contradictory message.”
I agree with Dr. Baillargeon and others like him in the know, including Dr. Balfour Mount, a Canadian physician and North American pioneer of palliative care, who remains vehemently opposed to euthanasia, which is another step in legalizing self-administered death. Dr. Mount is credited with coming up with the medical term, palliative care, which is derived from “to palliate,” which means to mitigate or improve the quality. The blog site, Living With Dignity, says the following, referring to Dr. Mount’s views:
He insists that palliative care can effectively manage all of a patient’s pain and suffering, while the legalization of euthanasia would seriously endanger the weak and vulnerable. The safety and protection of all citizens is paramount; it has always taken precedence over individual rights in public health.
Well said. The solution might found in increasing the number of palliative care beds, thus improving the quality of care for persons in the latter stages of life. As is the case with many thorny ethical questions, it depends on how one views the matter. One wonders whom the Quebec government consulted in drafting such a law and, equally important, why such a law is currently deemed necessary. To get to the heart of the matter, the most important human question, in my mind, is, Whom does it benefit?

For more, go to [ViceNews]