Quebec's health minister has agreed to withdraw a controversial article from his bill on the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAID).

Christian Dubé announced Thursday at a news conference at the National Assembly that he was withdrawing the section concerning the eligibility of people with severe neuromotor disabilities, such as quadriplegia.

This change comes less than 24 hours after the bill was introduced.

The minister explained that he had heard the concerns of the opposition parties, and that he was withdrawing the section on disabilities in order not to cause the bill to "slip."

"I have one goal, which is to have a bill that brings everyone together," he said.

"We're going to go with the consensus," added Premier François Legault.

The day before, opposition parties had greeted Bill 38 with surprise, insisting that the issue of disabilities had never been debated in Quebec.

They called this section of the bill a "rabbit out of the hat" for the minister, later denouncing Dubé's "shoddy" work on this excessively sensitive issue.

"But it's all nonsense. Why did they put it in the bill? We just lost 48 hours. We have no time to lose, look at the calendar," said Vincent Marissal of Québec Solidaire.

On Thursday, Dubé defended himself from having made a mistake, saying he had listened to the College of Physicians who were "pushing hard" for severe neuromotor disabilities to be included in the bill.

"There is a legal blur between the federal and Quebec governments that is very difficult for doctors," he explained. "If my mistake was listening to what people are experiencing on the ground, that's it."

Dubé said he called the president of the Collège des médecins, Dr. Mauril Gaudreault, on Thursday morning.

"I explained to Dr. Gaudreault (...) that I could not take the risk of derailing this bill. (...) I told him that it was a postponement. We will come back with this when (...) Quebecers are ready," he said.

Bill 38 contains about 50 articles.

The overall aim is to allow people with Alzheimer's, for example, to apply early for MAID, which is the subject of a consensus in Quebec.

At present, one must be capable of consenting at the time of obtaining MAID, with some exceptions.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 26, 2022