After two years of consultations and research the Dying with Dignity commission of the Quebec National Assembly has issued a new report recommending euthanasia.

The report, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), will reignite the debate over medically assisted death.

Although some people believe that euthanasia is a criminal act, advocates state that it is a patient's right and should be considered as an end-of-life care option.

Drs. Ken Flegel, Senior Associate Editor, CMAJ, and John Fletcher, CMAJ Editor-in-Chief, explained:

"Many physicians and patients will find this a shocking prospect to consider. Frail, dependent patients often feel a burden to their families or caregivers, and the unspoken possibility of a quick resolution to their predicament may complicate an already stressful situation."

If the recommendations are adopted by Quebec there must be legal safeguards in place in order to protect patients and health care workers from potential abuses. Furthermore, national discussion and involvement of federal lawmakers and public consultation in Quebec will be required in order to make changes to the criminal code.

The authors conclude:

"The ethics of euthanasia are a familiar debate in Canada; one that may have been theoretical, until recently, because of the tacit assumption that doctors do not kill people. In Quebec, the debate is moving from theory toward practice. Which way will legislation go? Will the rest of Canada follow? Those who care about the answers to these questions must speak up now, and with conviction."

Written By Grace Rattue