QUEBEC, February 21, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a development billed as a “mini-victory” by a pro-life leader, Quebec’s bill allowing doctors to kill their patients as “medical aid in dying” missed its vote at the National Assembly on Thursday.
There is a chance the bill may not make it to a final vote as the legislature is now on a two week recess and observers are predicting the governing Parti Quebecois will call an election.
Isabelle O’Connor of Groupe Vivere, an organization educating the public and politicians on palliative care and adoption, called yesterday a “mini- victory.”
“On February 20, something that no one could ever have foretold happened, something we had been praying for the past weeks, some kind of an unexpected ‘blunder out of left field’: Bill 52 was, ironically, involuntarily euthanized,” she told LifeSiteNews.
“We witnessed yesterday a historical set-back for the culture of death in Quebec, one we have to build upon,” said Georges Buscemi, president of Campaigne Quebec Vie, to LifeSiteNews.
“Through lobbying but also prayer and sacrifice we did everything to jamb the gears of this seemingly unstoppable machine and actually stopped it for a moment. It showed that our efforts and our prayers actually worked.”
O’Connor said a “very special series of circumstances” resulted in the bill missing its vote.
Sensing on Wednesday that the bill might get short shrifted, Véronique Hivon — the junior health minister behind the bill — appealed to the opposition to adopt the bill before the legislature went on break.
But Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard said the bill needed more time for debate. He also said MNAs would be allowed a conscience vote, given the serious nature of the bill, and that each MNA would need time to record publicly in the National Assembly the reason behind their views.
At one point in the afternoon the Leader of the House motioned to extend the day until after the tabling of the budget so as to make time to vote on Bill 52, a move that was rejected by the Liberals.
As Thursday wound down, so did Bill 52’s chances of receiving a vote.
“All these things converged for the very unlikely outcome of yesterday. Time ran out. An election will be called in the very near future, and the bill will then officially be dead,” O’Connor predicted.
Parliamentary house leader Stéphane Bédard accused Couillard’s Liberals of blocking the bill’s passage, calling the fact that it missed the vote the most disappointing event of his political career, reported CBC News.
“I don’t know what they do on their lunch hour that is so important that they couldn’t talk about this bill,” he told reporters yesterday afternoon.
The Liberals however denied the charge, saying there simply was not enough time to adequately debate the matter.
Bill 52 was tabled in June by the Marois government. Titled An Act Respecting End-of-life Care, the bill allows those with “an incurable serious illness,” among other criteria, to request death by the hand of a doctor.
Canada’s Criminal Code currently prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide. Human life advocates have accused the Quebec government of attempting to circumvent the Code by defining euthanasia in Bill 52 as “medical treatment.”
The Federal government told LifeSiteNews that if Quebec’s euthanasia bill becomes law, it will be “up for the courts to decide if any province is legislating within its jurisdiction.”
“It is our Government’s position that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia are in place to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable in our society,” said Paloma Aguilar, spokesperson for Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
“The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation twenty years ago in the Rodriguez decision. Furthermore, in April 2010, a large majority of Parliamentarians voted not to change these laws, which is an expression of democratic will on this topic,” she said.
Critics say that the bill’s passage could set a precedent for euthanasia to become a normal part of the health care system across Canada.
The legislation has been vigorously opposed by an alliance of Quebec physicians who say they will have no part in administering death to patients, calling euthanasia through lethal injection “not a form of care, but rather the definitive end of all care.” Canadian physicians in general are opposed to legalized euthanasia, with only 16 percent saying they would euthanize a patient if legal.
The bishops of Quebec have opposed the bill from the beginning.
Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine did not mince words earlier this month about what Bill 52 would condone: “In hastening a person's death … we are not helping them in dying, we are directly ending their life. It is to give our doctors the authority to kill patients who are vulnerable in certain circumstances,” he said.
The legislation has received mixed reviews from Quebec residents. An Abingdon Research poll in October found that support for the euthanasia bill dropped from 72 percent to 35 percent when respondents were informed of abuses perpetrated by euthanasia laws in other countries such as Belgium.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, warned that the bill would open the door to the same abuses currently happening in Belgium, where people are being euthanized without requesting it and where the categories of those eligible for death keep ballooning.
Last week Belgium became the first country in the world to approve euthanasia for children who request it with parental consent.
Quebec doctors are already calling for a more extensive list of those who would qualify for a lethal injection if the bill were to become law, including children.
Buscemi said that yesterday’s victory will most likely be short-lived, since Bill 52 has only been “set back,” not destroyed.
“Even if an election were called the bill will surely reappear in one way or another once a new government is formed. A PQ majority would in all probability resurrect and promptly pass the bill. A PQ minority would also reintroduce the bill and count on the Liberals that were for the bill to pass it,” he said.
But O’Connor said the bill’s delay provides more time to build resistance against it.
“This is the biggest battle of our lives, for Quebec, for Canada and for the world.”
“Now we need to turn the votes of the MPs around because so many say they are against euthanasia but will vote for it,” she said.