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MONTREAL, Quebec, October 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A majority of caregivers in Quebec support euthanasia for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, even if the patients had not previously signed an advance directive.

According to a recent survey, ninety-one percent of 302 caregivers surveyed said they favored euthanasia for people with dementia who were in the terminal stage of the illness, showed signs of distress, and had signed an advance directive to be euthanized, reported the Montreal Gazette.

But as many as seventy-two percent still supported euthanasia for dementia patients, even when the patients had not signed an advance directive.

The survey was performed by University of Sherbrooke epidemiologist Dina Bravo. Some dozen chapters of the Quebec Federation of Alzheimer’s Groups assisted by collecting data.

“This story chills me to my bones,” responded American anti-euthanasia activist Wesley Smith in the National Review

The disease “can be far worse on the caregiver than it is on the afflicted, who often don’t remember their worst moments,” wrote Smith, who cared for his mother, an Alzheimer’s patient, in his home for five months before her death.

“Anyone who doesn’t see the potential for caregivers working to put the patient out of their own misery, is ignoring the foibles of human nature,” he said. 

Neither Quebec’s nor Canada’s euthanasia law allows advance directives for euthanasia.

Quebec’s Bill 52 stipulates a person requesting death by lethal injection must do so “in a free and informed matter,” reported the Gazette

But that may change.

Advance directives may come soon

Quebec’s Liberal Health Minister Gaetan Barrette tasked a parliamentary commission in March to begin consultations on advance directives.

Barrette, who expects the consultations to last about a year, said the time was right because more people in the province than expected had asked to be killed by lethal injection.

“As a doctor and a minister, I think that Quebeckers are ready,” he told Canadian Press.

Ten months after the province’s euthanasia law took effect in December 2015, Barrette expressed surprise that the number of people requesting to be killed by euthanasia was three times higher than he anticipated. 

There were 461 reported euthanasia killings in Quebec in the first year it was legal, the CBC reported in March.

When announcing the panel on expanding euthanasia, Barrette also referred to the case of 56-year-old Michel Cadotte.

The Montreal man was charged in February with second-degree murder after allegedly smothering his wife, 60-year-old Jocelyn Lizotte, with a pillow in a nursing home.

Lizotte suffered from Alzheimer’s. Her nephew told CBC the family’s request that she be euthanized was refused.

The charge against Cadotte, whose trial was in July, was used in the media to spark debate on allowing advance directives.

When Quebec wanted to legalize euthanasia in 2014, the government classified it as a “health service” and therefore it fell under provincial jurisdiction, noted Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention. 

If Quebec again acts unilaterally to expand euthanasia by allowing advance directives, the federal Liberals could choose to look the other way, he told LifeSiteNews.

But it appears that the federal Liberals are themselves looking to expand euthanasia.

They asked the Council of Canadian Academics to set up a panel and report by 2018 on advance directives, as well as euthanasia for children, and solely for mental illness. 

The danger of advance directives for degenerative diseases like dementia is “you can’t change your mind now because you’re incompetent,” Schadenberg said.

With medical directives, people will often change their minds and opt for treatment they earlier said they wouldn’t want, he pointed out. “You can’t revert from death. Once you’re dead, you’re dead.”

Moreover, the crucial question becomes “who decides” that the conditions for euthanasia an individual consented to in advance have been met, Schadenberg said. 

Indeed, the Telegraph reported in January a Dutch woman who signed an advance directive to be euthanized “at the right time” was held down by her family as she fought to stop her doctor, who had decided the time was right, from lethally injecting her. 

The doctor was cleared of wrongdoing under the Dutch euthanasia law.

Moreover, there’s also clear evidence doctors in the Netherlands and Belgium are killing people without their consent even though “it’s not technically legal,” Schadenberg said.

A 2015 survey of doctors showed more than 1,000 people in the Flanders region of Belgium were euthanized without consent in 2013, he told LifeSiteNews. 

Similarly, in January 2017 the Netherlands released its report of 2015 euthanasia deaths, which documented 431 people killed by lethal injection without their consent.

“If you look at that data and you analyze that data, you realize that nearly all of those deaths were people who were in a coma and had dementia,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.

“Once you legalize euthanasia, you’re giving the power over life and death over to doctors, or in Canada, doctors and nurse practitioners” who may “view your life as not worth living,” he said.

“Now we’re placing the value that someone holds for my life into the balance of whether or not I live or die. That’s a ridiculous situation,” added Schadenberg.

That “suffering due to Alzheimer’s disease sometimes falls heavier on caregivers than on patients” and that caregiving “can be exhausting and heartbreaking, and sometimes perilous to the caregivers’ health” cannot be ignored or sugar-coated, writes Smith.

“But allowing caregivers to order doctors (or nurses) to end the patient’s life is a bridge too far,” he points out.

“If a society is judged by the way in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens, we will reject the killing agenda and focus our efforts on mitigating suffering and promoting better care.”