MONTREAL – A Quebec-based doctors’ group is seeking to contest the provincial law that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with medical help.
Paul Saba of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice and Lisa D’Amico, a handicapped woman, said Thursday they want to submit new arguments to Quebec Superior Court before the end-of-life care law takes effect on Dec. 10.
They argue the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on doctor-assisted suicide was based on a case in British Columbia that occurred before the Quebec law was adopted in June 2014.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in February that Canadians with unbearable and irremediable suffering could be eligible to end their lives with a doctor’s aid, but the justices stayed their decision until February 2016 to give Parliament time to replace the existing law if it so chooses.
“The Supreme Court has not ruled on the Quebec law, has not addressed the Quebec law, because that law was not part of the questions to be decided,” the group’s lawyer Dominique Talarico said.
The law on end-of-life care sets out a patient’s right to “receive the end-of-life care their condition requires” as well as raises the issue of medical aid in dying and a long list of requirements to be met before a doctor can administer it.
Talarico said that a patient’s consent cannot be free and informed if they have not been offered all palliative care options, which is not always the case in the province due to a lack of accessibility to certain treatments, drugs and services.
Delays are often long and accessibility varies from one region of Quebec to another, Talarico added.
“The actual state of the health system, disease screening, the state of health care and palliative care in Quebec are possibly more deficient than anywhere else in Canada. The context of care is part of the totality of evidence to be presented to Superior Court,” Talarico said.
The plaintiffs also want the court to answer questions such as whether medical aid in dying is a health service, which Saba argues it isn’t.
“As a doctor, I can’t accept something that is non-medical, non-scientific,” he said. “It even goes against my code of ethics in Quebec. Under the code of ethics, if we have treatments to offer or an operation, we must always use the least dangerous.”