June 23, 2014
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Groups opposed to euthanasia vow to fight Quebec's adoption of An Act on End-of-Life Care that brings Belgium-style euthanasia to the province.

The new law, passed by a vote of 94 to 22 on June 5, allows doctors to kill their patients if they request so-called medical aid in dying.

It treats euthanasia as health care, which is under provincial jurisdiction, while the Criminal Code, which lists it as culpable homicide, is under federal jurisdiction.

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has not indicated what action, if any, the federal government will take.

"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," MacKay's spokesperson Palomar Aguilar said in an email.

"The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation 20 years ago in the Rodriguez decision."

Aguilar also noted Parliament voted in April 2010 by "a large majority" not to change the laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide, "which is an expression of democratic will on this topic."

The Physicians' Alliance Against Euthanasia denounced the adoption of the bill as did the grassroots network Living with Dignity (Vivre dans la dignité). Both groups, in separate statements, vowed to take the battle to the courts on constitutional grounds.

"With few exceptions, our elected officials have also chosen to ignore that Quebec does not have jurisdiction to decriminalize euthanasia," Living with Dignity said.

"This is a serious betrayal of the sick and the dying, as the killing of a patient who is dying is not a treatment, but a homicide," the Alliance said in a statement.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC)'s executive director Alex Schadenberg said EPC supported the efforts of the Quebec-based groups to challenge the law on constitutional grounds.

"Let's be clear, Bill 52 gives Quebec physicians the right to intentionally and directly cause the death of persons by lethal injection," said Schadenberg on his blog. "This represents an act of homicide and not an act of 'end of life care.'"

He described the law as "imprecise, open to abuse and based on the Belgian euthanasia law.

"In Belgium, euthanasia is being done to people who are not terminally ill but living with depression; euthanasia has been extended to children and studies have proven that euthanasia is often done to people without request," he said.

FAILURE OF DUTY

The Alliance accused Members of the National Assembly of failing in their duties to Quebecers by trying to fundamentally change the definition of medicine, the concept of health care and the value of human life.

"We will do everything in our power to protect vulnerable patients, to protect the integrity of the health care team and to preserve humane quality medicine that generations of doctors and nurses were able to build in Quebec," the Alliance said.

Living with Dignity pointed out the so-called "medical aid in dying" will now be offered, without exception in all public health institutions in Quebec – hospitals, nursing homes, and so on – "whatever the beliefs of management or its staff."

QUEBEC BISHOPS

The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec expressed profound disappointment and disquietude at the decision.

A June 6 statement signed by assembly president Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski, pointing to the 22 votes opposed to the bill, said there is a lack of consensus on the law that considers it a right to demand a lethal injection.

The right response to suffering at end of life is good palliative care, he said.

Fournier said he hoped all medical professionals who will be confronted with requests for euthanasia to have the strength and courage to resist on conscientious grounds.