The Québec government is now insisting that hospitals euthanize people promptly.

The Québec government’s insistence that hospitals euthanize people in Palliative care units contradicts the medical code of conduct of physicians, who have an obligation to provide the best medical care for their patients. Euthanasia does not meet the standards of best medical care for people who are at the end of life and require palliative care. Despite the Québec law and more recently the Canadian Law, no physician has an obligation to perform euthanasia or assisted suicide. The Québec law requires that the treating physician who receives a request for euthanasia and objects to administering it for personal reasons must refer the request to the medical director of the establishment. Nevertheless the Québec law and Federal law are being challenged in the Québec Superior Court. It is noteworthy that the World Medical Association advises physicians to actively refuse to abide by euthanasia or assisted suicide laws even in jurisdictions where laws have been passed.

Dr Paul Saba, who is contesting both the Quebec and Canadian euthanasia laws, states that euthanasia and assisted suicide are dangerous and will cause the needless loss of lives of people who may have many years to live. Palliative care is a place where only palliation must be practiced. Patients have a right to be protected and not pressured into ending their lives prematurely. The Québec government is acting recklessly and dangerously in transforming Palliative Care units into euthanasia units. Even the Québec law recognizes a distinction between Palliative care and euthanasia. People who want to live their lives to the end in dignity surrounded by loved ones deserve the respect and support offered by Palliative care units. They have the right not to live in fear of being killed prematurely by a lethal injection. Physicians also have the right to care for their patients according to the highest standards of medical care which includes palliative care but does not include euthanasia.

Is the pressure to euthanize due to the lack of health care

Dr. Saba questions the true motives of the Québec and Canadian governments. Is the pressure to euthanize due to the lack of health care for its citizens, including the lack of palliative care for those who truly are at the end of life? Is the Québec government creating a false debate in demanding faster access to euthanasia when Quebecers do not have access or prompt enough access to essential services like family physicians, cancer screening and even cancer surgery? Presently 52% of Montrealers cannot be operated on within the 4-week window mandated by the government. 900 beds are being closed this summer. Is the government using euthanasia as a means of freeing up more beds? This goes against the will of Quebecers and Canadians as revealed by a recent Angus Reid Poll (April 1 2016). The poll reveals that the majority of Canadians are opposed to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia because of lack of health care. Canadians oppose PAS because: “the cost of a patient’s care is very expensive to the health care system (79%)”; “a person has no hope for the future and no meaning to their lives (69%)”; “a person has multiple health conditions and feels overwhelmed (64%)”; and “a person’s care appears to be a burden to their family (74%).” A slim majority of 55% are in favour of PAS “because Canadians are unable to get access to medical care to treat their pain and suffering.”

“This reveals that Quebecers and Canadians want good health care and not euthanasia as the solution for the lack of access to medical care,” states Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician. “Many Canadians wait a long time for: physicians, specialists, screening, testing and treatments. Canadians’ access to specialist and primary care is the lowest among 11 comparable countries.”

Attorneys Dominique Talarico and Natalia Manole, who represent Dr. Saba in his legal challenge against euthanasia, state that “In the absence of appropriate medical care and services, it is impossible to give a free and informed consent to receive physician-assisted suicide. By not having access to the good care, a person may end his or her life prematurely.”