For the Sake of Families Please Do Not Go Down Canada’s Dark Road of Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide

Open letter to Governor Hassan of New Hampshire – From Dr Paul Saba

Dr Paul Saba

Dr Paul Saba

As the state of New Hampshire considers establishing an end-of-life choices study commission, I strongly advise against this. This will only lead down the same dark road that Canada has travelled. Although in the United States euthanasia and physician assisted suicide falls under state jurisdiction, in Canada this falls under both Federal and Provincial jurisdictions.

Presently, Canada is proposing doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia of its most vulnerable citizens including children who are “mature minors” and the depressed.

Children possibly as young as 11 or 12 could see their lives ended prematurely without parental consent or prior notification. The serious consequences of enacting such a provision is illustrated by the case of Nadine (Video Link). At 14 years old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She underwent multiple chemotherapies and a failed bone marrow transplant. She was told that she had little chance to survive. She states that without the loving support of her family, she would have given up. Today at 19 she is well and happy to be alive.

History has taught us that killing the weak and vulnerable is a formula for disaster. The Romans encouraged the weak, sick and depressed to kill themselves. In 1938, Germany started euthanizing handicapped children. Today, Belgium and the Netherlands euthanize children, the depressed and those tired of life. 

As a physician with dual USA and Canada citizenship, I have studied and practiced medicine in both countries. I presently live in Montreal. As President and Founder of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice my progressive ideas have included promoting quality medical care for the poor, incapacitated, the elderly and the young. However, I do not consider euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide as progressive. Presently in the province of Quebec many citizens have already been euthanized under a cloud of government controlled secrecy despite a requirement of an oversight committee. 

Link to the full article

Is the Québec law euthanasia or assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Those who follow the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) newsletters and blog will know that in June 2014 the Québec government legalized euthanasia, not assisted suicide in a manner that is similar to the Belgian euthanasia law, by claiming that lethal injection is a form of medical treatment.

Many Canadians remain confused about the Québec euthanasia law. Graeme Hamilton, the National Post's Québec corespondent, explained in his December 11th article what Québec's "Medical-aid-in-dying" law (Bill 52) actually says. Hamilton wrote:

Is it euthanasia or assisted suicide that Quebec has legalized? 
Under the Quebec law, physicians will administer lethal injections to consenting patients. Quebec calls this “medical aid in dying,” but it is more commonly known as euthanasia. Assisted suicide, which is currently legal in three American states, occurs when a physician provides a patient with lethal medication that the patient uses to end his or her own life. Quebec considered but rejected the legalization of assisted suicide, concluding that it was preferable to have the physician administer the medication. 
How might a federal law differ from what Quebec has done? 
Ottawa has been spurred to action by last February’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling, which invalidated the Criminal Code prohibition of physician-assisted death. The high court gave the federal government and provinces one year to come up with new legislation, but Ottawa has requested a six-month extension and it has not indicated whether it will opt for euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Clarification: The dangerous Supreme Court decision struck down Canada's assisted suicide law (Section 241b of the Criminal Code) and offered limited reasons as to when euthanasia could be legal.

Therefore, "medical-aid-in-dying" in Québec is euthanasia. The Québec government published euthanasia guidelines, that disability rights leader, Amy Hasbrouck, explains are clear as mud.

On December 4, Canada's federal government requested a six-month extension to enable them to legislate on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

EPC intervened in the Carter case at all levels and has submitted its legal analysis to the Supreme Court whereby EPC agrees with the six-month extension and we oppose the request by the Québec government that they be exempt from the six-month extension.

Status of Québec Euthanasia Law Remains in Flux

Press Release - December 10, 2015


On December 9, 2015 the Québec Court of Appeal granted permission for Québec to appeal a declaration rendered by the Québec Superior Court on December 1, 2015, which rendered inoperable the euthanasia provisions set out in the Québec euthanasia law, finding that they were in conflict with existing Criminal Code prohibitions against homicide

The Court of Appeal made it clear that it was not making any decision on the merits of the case, but did note that the issues raised by the case are of significant public importance and should be addressed swiftly. A hearing has been scheduled for December 18, 2015 to address the appeal, putting in flux the status of the Québec law, which was to come into effect on December 10, 2015.

As such, a doctor in Québec can still be prosecuted if they participate in an act of euthanasia.

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), found that existing laws against homicide and assisted suicide to be unconstitutional, but kept those laws in effect and gave Parliament one year to enact a new law that provides for a regime of effective oversight and safeguards.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) was an intervenor at all levels of court in the Carter case and is also an intervenor before the Québec Court of Appeal in D’Amico c. Procureure générale du Québec.

EPC's position in the D'Amico litigation is that Québec's euthanasia law goes beyond the jurisdiction of the Province of Québec and falls under the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada. The intentional killing of patients by doctors is not medical treatment or health care, and the lack of before the death oversight represents a fatal flaw in the proposed Québec law that puts the safety of the public at risk, contrary to s.7 of the Charter.

EPC Counsel, Toronto Constitutional Lawyer, Hugh Scher states:

A national approach to the regulation of assisted suicide is the only way to avoid an inconsistent patchwork quilt of regulation of assisted suicide laws across Canada, which could leave Canadians at risk.

EPC Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg states:

The Federal Government could take a very different approach to regulation than the much riskier regime of euthanasia that has been endorsed in Québec, which is similar to the Belgian regime, where deaths without request have occurred, and where a lack of compliance with the enacted safeguards is evident.

EPC Vice President, Amy Hasbrouck notes that:

The Supreme Court’s conclusion that assisted suicide could be legalized safely is predicated on the notion of strong federal regulation. The lack of a comprehensive national response to these issues risks sowing incoherence, an approach that would put all Canadians at risk.

The Federal Government has indicated its intention to hold all-party Parliamentary Committee hearings to study and respond legislatively to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carter.

For more information contact:

Hugh Scher (Toronto), EPC Legal Counsel (416) 816-6115 or hugh@sdlaw.ca
Alex Schadenberg (London), EPC Executive Director (519) 851-1434 or info@epcc.ca
Amy Hasbrouck (Montreal), EPC Vice President (450) 921-3057 or tigrlily61@gmail.com

Quebec's attempt to oust federal govt over assisted suicide troubling

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

This article was published by Advocate Daily on December 10, 2015

A national approach to the regulation of assisted suicide is the only way to avoid an inconsistent patchwork quilt of assisted suicide laws across the country, which could leave Canadians at risk, says Toronto health, human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

The Quebec Court of Appeal has said it will hear arguments from all sides later this month on a provincial law allowing euthanasia following a recent Quebec Superior Court decision — D'Amico c. Procureure generale du Quebec — suspending key aspects of the legislation.

The Quebec euthanasia law is now in a state of flux until the Dec. 18 appeal hearing.

News of the appeal came just days after Justice Michel Pinsonnault ruled that key pieces of the Quebec law, which were adopted in June 2014, clash with existing federal criminal laws against homicide. In permitting the appeal to proceed next week, the Court of Appeal was clear it was making no ruling on the appropriateness of the order of the Superior Court to suspend its operation.

The judge noted that last February’s Supreme Court of Canada decision carving out exceptions to the Criminal Code prohibitions that ban physician-assisted suicide — Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5 — gave Parliament one year to legislate new rules to give effect to the ruling. Ottawa has since asked for an extension, which would bump the response time from one year to 18 months.

Link to the full article

Québec Superior Court decision prevents December 10 launch of Québec euthanasia law

For Immediate Release - December 1, 2015

Justice Michel Pinsonnault of the Québec Superior Court made the right decision, today,  by preventing the Québec euthanasia law from coming into effect on December 10, 2015.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) intervened in the court case by the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice.

EPC is a national non-profit corporation that exists to build a broad based network of groups and individuals that support measures that will create an effective social barrier to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

EPC argued that euthanasia does not constitute health care. EPC Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg, stated:

Euthanasia is done by lethal injection which does not constitute a form of health care.

EPC is also convinced that Québec does not have jurisdiction to legalize euthanasia. EPC legal counsel, Hugh Scher, stated that the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the role of the federal government to legislate on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The federal government either has sole jurisdiction or shared jurisdiction concerning these issues. The decision was necessary based on the federal right to legislate on these issues.

Amy Hasbrouck, the Director of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet said:

Inconsistency between federal and provincial regulation for death could foster confusion and dangerous errors. We must handle these policies with extreme care.

For more information contact:

Hugh Scher, EPC legal counsel (Toronto): (416) 816-6115 or hugh@sdlaw.ca
Amy Hasbrouck, Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet (Montréal): (450) 921-3057 or tigrlily61@gmail.com
Alex Schadenberg, EPC Executive Director (London): (519) 851-1434 or info@epcc.ca

Beware of Assisted Suicide Bullies

This article was published in the National Post on October 19, 2015.

By Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston is a family physician in Vancouver and the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of BC

Dr Will Johnston

Dr Will Johnston

For at least a few more months, the Canadian medical system will continue to be a safe space, free of assisted suicide and euthanasia. But all that is about to change. In order to ensure our hospitals and palliative care centres remain places where patients feel safe and secure, we must respect doctors’ conscience rights, rather than listen to activists who seek to impose their one-size-fits-all policy on the rest of us.

For instance, the palliative care centres in Quebec that refuse to have anything to do with euthanasia, for reasons of medical judgment and ethics, have apparently angered Jean-Pierre Menard, the lawyer who helped write Quebec’s euthanasia law, Bill 52. The act specifically states that palliative care centres are not required to provide euthanasia service — but maybe to Menard, those were just soothing words to get the bill passed. Now Menard says money should be taken away from palliative services that won’t provide euthanasia on their premises. And the minister of health, Gaetan Barrette, has threatened to revoke the hospital privileges of doctors who won’t comply.

This is wrong. The doctors and nurses who devote themselves to the care of dying people reject euthanasia because it is a tempting substitute for diligence and creativity. People with exceptionally difficult end-of-life illnesses can have reversible palliative sedation, which preserves their life and completely alleviates their symptoms. This makes intentionally killing the patient an unnecessary, dangerous and irreversible intrusion.

Link to the full article

Quebec trying to force physician participation in euthanasia

Urgent: we must support our palliative care colleagues

Last week, Dr. Barrette raised the spectre of suspension for physician members of (palliative care) services not wishing to offer euthanasia in hospital. Mr. Ménard, architect of Bill 52, even presses the government to cut subsidies to all palliative care centres in Quebec because they have all decided not to offer euthanasia within their walls, a decision clearly permitted by Bill 52!

Who will bear the brunt of such abuses of power? Terminally ill patients, of course, whose doctor will be suspended or whose palliative care centre will have decreased its services for lack of money. A big mess in perspective.

The population must be aware that these ideologues are about to severely damage, if not ruin, our palliative care network.

We ask all our members to come to the defense of palliative care providers who are currently the target of a true campaign of intimidation that will only increase in the coming months if we do not speak out.

Write massively to the opinion pages of Quebec newspapers and to medical magazines: you will find a list of email addresses to forums and other opinion pages at the bottom of this email.

Speak to politicians and health care administrators in your area.

Link to the full article