Quebec's assisted-death law to go into effect Thursday
Published Wednesday, December 9, 2015 11:37AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 10, 2015 11:39AM EST
Quebec's health minister says the province's Dying with Dignity Law will be adopted as of Thursday, pending appeal of an injunction against it.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gaetan Barrette said the province’s Court of Appeal granted the Quebec government permission to appeal the injunction.
It also temporarily lifted the injunction that would have prevented Bill 52 from going into effect.
The full hearing will be held on Dec. 18, when three judges from the Court of Appeal will hear the case in detail.
“As of tomorrow Bill 52 will be implemented fully,” said Barrette.
Doctor Paul Saba, who fought for the injunction, said moving forward is a misinterpretation of the ruling.
“That's a misinterpretation. With any elected official that says that, it's clearly stated in Article 20 and in 24. In article 20 it says that the decision to go before an appeal does not change the previous judge's judgment, so everything's on hold. Nothing's changed,” said Saba.
Quebec's College of Physicians has advised its members exercise prudence, adding that it would be best to wait for a final decision on the law's validity.
To put medical professionals at ease, Quebec's Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée is preparing an advisory for prosecutors so that as of Thursday, patients may legally receive care to help them with their medically-assisted death.
Saba said that's premature.
“They're clearly in the wrong in this situation, and for them to proceed would be going against the federal Criminal Code, the Constitution.
Barrette was asked why the government wouldn't just wait for a final ruling.
“I don't think that there are people waiting to have access to medical aid in dying, but the principle in having the choice is something that people want to have,” he said.
Parti Quebecois MP Veronique Hivon, who lobbied for the bill since her days as junior health minister, said this is an important victory.
“It's a very important step forward for people who are at the end of their life,” she said. “It's a very important decision for dignity, compassion, solidarity for people who are suffering at the end of their life.”
The law permitting physicians to assist in someone's death came to a halt last week when a Superior Court Judge granted opponents an injunction.
"We hope that our arguments will be taken by the court and that the articles of the Dying with Dignity law will be in force tomorrow," said Vallée before the hearing.
The judge granting the injunction said Quebec could not allow physicians to end the life of a patient who wanted to die because of an outstanding case before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Saba and his patient Lisa D'Amico convinced the court that Quebec's new law conflicted with federal criminal laws.
“Murder should remain a murder,” said D’Amico. “There's no reason why a physician could be allowed to kill a citizen that is sick.”
Earlier this year the Supreme Court, in its ruling on Carter v. Canada, struck down a federal law that made physician-assisted death a crime, but gave the federal government until February 2016 to write a new law specifying how adults suffering from unbearable mental or physical pain could end their lives.
Last week Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said the federal government would ask the Supreme Court to extend its deadline by six months.
Supporters of the right to doctor-assisted death urged the government to let the issue become decriminalized while it works on legislation.
Quebec ministers say the provincial law regarding assisted dying should not be interpreted as a criminal matter.
"The difference between Quebec and the other provinces is we have legislation that's very clear on the end of life care that is available here in Quebec, and of the choices that have been made by the MNAs here in the National Assembly," said Vallée.
"There's been a broad consultation. There's been a lot of exchanges and reflection on end of life care, and we of all the provinces, have something," she added.
"We don't have such legislation anywhere else in Canada."