Introduction

Webcast archive: Québec Superior Court delays implementation of euthanasia in Québec

Today, we discuss the court-ordered delay of Quebec’s euthanasia program.

Webcast archive: Québec Superior Court delays implementation of euthanasia in Québec

In this episode of Euthanasia & Disability, Amy Hasbrouck and Christian Debray discuss:

  • Québec court grants injunction delaying implementation of euthanasia in Québec
  • Five big lies about assisted suicide

Please note that this text is only a script and that our webcast contains additional commentary.

QUÉBEC SUPERIOR COURT GRANTS ORDER DELAYING IMPLEMENTATION OF EUTHANASIA LAW, QUÉBEC APPEALS

  • In a decision rendered on December 1st, the Superior Court of Quebec calls the Québec government to account for attempting to have “medical aid in dying” recognized as medical care whereas in practice, as the Court noted, it is euthanasia of human beings.
  • Consequently, the court declared inoperative all the articles of the Act respecting end-of-life care (the “Act“) related to “medical aid in dying” that were to come into effect on December 10 until the federal criminal code sections (articles 14 and 241(b)) become invalid as ordered by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision.
  • This is due to happen on February 6, 2016, but there is a strong possibility that the federal government will ask for, and the Supreme Court will grant, an extension, to give Parliament time to enact a new law.
  • As the Superior Court said, “the fact of dressing up assisted suicide and euthanasia of a human being with another name, a euphemism, namely medical aid in dying, can not have the effect of automatically exempting the practice from the application of a federal law…” (at para. 122).
  • The Superior Court continues: “… to add the word medical to the term  aid in dying cannot by itself have the effect of sheltering provincial legislative provisions that are incompatible with federal legislation in criminal matters, a jurisdiction conferred exclusively to the federal Parliament by the Constitution.” (at para. 139).
  • This is the first court decision that corrects this manipulation of language that was devised by the Quebec government in order to shield its euthanasia program from federal criminal law.
  • Thus, the Court agrees with the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, Living with Dignity, the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the vast majority of palliative care doctors who have always stated publicly that “medical aid in dying” was a euphemism to legalize euthanasia.
  • Note: all quotations of the decision of the Quebec Superior Court are an unofficial translation of the original decision rendered in French.  Thanks to Living with Dignity for permission to use portions of their blog entry in writing this update.  Visit Living with Dignity’s blog for a more detailed discussion of the decision, at vivredignite.org/en

FIVE BIG LIES

  • There are some Big Lies that are repeated over and over again by advocates for assisted suicide and euthanasia (AS/E).  These would be mere annoyances but for the danger of people in vulnerable circumstances being induced to request AS/E, resulting in death by public policy failure.
  • Big Lie #1:  “The study process was fair and balanced.”  Any commission which has the outcome as part of its name should be considered suspect.  Québec’s commission on the question of dying with dignity knew its mandate before its first meeting, and the outcome was preordained. For example, an analysis of the testimony received by the Commission performed by the Québec-based group Living with Dignity showed that a majority of witnesses opposed assisted suicide and euthanasia.  Yet the final report claimed to have found global support for what it called “medical aid in dying.”
  • Big Lie #2:  “Medical Aid in Dying.”  Advocacy groups promoted the term “medical aid in dying” over physician assisted suicide or euthanasia based on focus group responses that said the term was more palatable.  In going along, the media and politicians have fostered public confusion as to what “medical aid in dying” means.  During the 2013 debate on Québec’s euthanasia bill, an Ipsos poll showed that only 33% of Québécois understood that “medical aid in dying” meant a doctor giving a lethal injection, while 51% did not know it means taking action to end life.
  • Big Lie #3:  “Only religious people and conservatives oppose AS/E.”  Advocacy groups have drawn a false dichotomy; those who support AS/E are forward-thinking progressives, while those who oppose it are political conservatives or religious fanatics.  This view leaves out the people who are most directly affected by the legalization of AS/E, who have also been among the most stalwart opponents; people with disabilities. All of the major disability rights groups in North America and the Commonwealth countries strongly oppose AS/E as fundamentally discriminatory.  The analysis of the disability movement is based on the socio-economic and political status of elders and people who are diagnosed with degenerative diseases and disabilities.  Disability onset means a sudden loss of access and status in our society.  Despite the glowing rhetoric of our laws and conventions, the failure to enforce these rights show that disabled people continue to be devalued, segregated, impoverished and ignored.
  • Big Lie #4:  “It’s not about disabled people.”  The legalization of AS/E presupposes that life with a disability is a fate worse than death, which it is not.  The most common reasons cited by those seeking assisted suicide in jurisdictions where it is legal relate to living with a disability in a discriminatory society.  Most such laws either implicitly or explicitly apply to people with disabilities, yet supporters pooh-pooh the concerns of disability advocates who point out that nearly everyone who receives AS/E has a physical or mental disability (whether or not they also have a terminal illness).
  • Big Lie #5:  “There is no slippery slope.”  Even the court in the Carter case acknowledged that the widening eligibility criteria (children, people with mental illness and those who are “tired of life”) and easing of oversight in jurisdictions where AS/E are legal might be a problem.  However instead of “carefully crafting” a regulatory scheme to prevent AS/E from posing a danger to people in vulnerable circumstances, politicians and commentators are imposing deadlines and calling for fast-track implementation of the policy.
  • The result is a medical community that doesn’t know what to do, a public that doesn’t know its rights, and a non-existent system geared to trap people and their doctors in a maze with only one exit marked “euthanasia.”
  • And a bonus Big Lie: Killing is care.