A renewed debate at the National Assembly around medical aid in dying has been triggered by the alleged mercy killing of a 60-year-old woman with Alzheimer's disease.

Michel Cadotte has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife 60-year-old Jocelyne Lizotte at a long-term care facility in Montreal.

Lizotte’s family said she requested medical aid in dying but was refused.

Under the current legislation being approved for medically-assisted death requires the following:

  • the person has to be at the end of life
  • ‘unbearable suffering’ with ‘an irreversible decline of capabilities’
  • the patient has to have to mental capacity to make the request.

The difficulty with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's is that by the time the person is close to death, they are no longer mentally fit to make that decision.

In the earlier stages of the disease, when an individual is mentally competent, they are not close enough to death to be considered eligible for medical aid in dying.

MNA Francois Bonnardel knows that all too well, since his mother has Alzheimer's disease.

"I have seen her waste away. I have seen her no longer recognize me, unable to smile, to talk, to appreciate life. She is a prisoner in her own body," said Bonnardel.

He choked up speaking to reporters about his mother on Thursday, saying he would be ready to accept a request to die, if she had the capability of asking fro it.

The Parti Quebecais and the Coalition Avenir Quebec are asking for the law to be broadened to include advanced consent.

The CAQ would like a parliamentary committee to study the rules, while the PQ wants a new debate on amending legislation.

“Should we give the possibility to people who know will be facing a degenerative disease to ask in advance, in for example, advanced medical directives, to be able to get that kind of medical aid in dying, if they come to face the criteria of suffering, of the law, but are not able to ask for it themselves at the time? So that is the question,” said PQ justice critic Veronique Hivon, who first championed the law.

Health Minister Gaetan Barrette said he is “not closing any doors” on the debate.

“I’m not surprised that the societal thinking in that regard is still moving on. To where it will lead us? This is something is something that will have to be determined,” he said.