(Quebec) Faced with the lack of consensus, Quebec appoints a committee of experts who will examine the notion of “handicap” on the sidelines of the work towards the expansion of medical assistance in dying. This cross-partisan decision should not delay the progress of the bill.

Bill 11 on end-of-life care would expand medical assistance in dying to people living with a “neuromotor disability.” These are articles reintroduced by the Legault government in the new version of the legislative text, tabled in February, now led by Minister Sonia Bélanger. The previous version, tabled by Minister Christian Dubé, died on the order paper last spring.

“What emerged from the private consultations is that the concept of neuromotor disability is difficult to define. So it would mean possibly difficult to apply, and it also means that it could cause harm, “said the Minister for Health and Seniors on Wednesday. The parliamentarians heard a total of 37 groups in committee, in addition to receiving 60 briefs.

From the start of parliamentary work, the notion of “neuromotor disability” was debated. The Office of People with Disabilities of Quebec and the Barreau du Québec have notably argued that targeting only “neuromotor disability” could be discriminatory. The College of Physicians has also asked to expand access to “all severely disabled people”.

Faced with the lack of consensus, Liberal MP Jennifer Maccarone had proposed organizing a parallel “forum” to study the issue, which has never been debated in Quebec. “I thank the Minister for her openness to continue with a committee of experts, which will fuel the reflection before we begin the next stage of this bill, which will be the detailed study,” said the Liberal.

This committee of experts will be made up of medical professionals and people with disabilities. They will have three weeks to deliver their recommendations. The government could then hold a public consultation or a forum to publicize the conclusions of this committee of experts. The formula for the exercise has not yet been established.

The goal is still to pass the bill by the end of the parliamentary session, Ms. Bélanger said.

“The mandate that we are going to give to the committee of experts, essentially, is to try to define for us what neuromotor disability could mean, to define for us the notion of handicap, to also define for us the notion of impairment and incapacity, which was recommended to us by a few actors during the hearings,” explained Québec solidaire MNA Christine Labrie.

“The mandate is not to completely exclude disability”, qualified Minister Bélanger, but to “guide” parliamentarians on the notion of neuromotor disability.

“The objective is not purely and simply to harmonize Quebec law at the federal level, but to continue to have a Quebec that is progressing in the direction of its values ​​and the broadest possible social consensus in this matter which is eminently delicate,” said PQ MP Joël Arseneau.

The College of Physicians pointed out in a parliamentary commission that the Criminal Code “does not qualify the notion of disability” and asked that Quebec drop the “neuromotor” criterion so that “Quebec law grants access to this care in all fairness”. .