Euthanasia in Quebec: “Who pushes the button on the syringe?”

Publié le 22 Oct, 2015

In Quebec, law 52 adopted on 10 June 2014 will come into force in December 2015(cf. Gènéthique du 10 juin 2014). This allows adults at the end of life and people experiencing immense, incurable suffering to receive medical assistance to die. It also includes a conscience clause for doctors.


Already denounced by Canadian health professionals, this law is generating “malaise”in palliative care services: “I went into medicine to help people live, not to kill them”,explained Nicholas Newman. He went on to say that “elderly patients are extremely vulnerable. When they are admitted to hospital, they feel as though they are a burden. They are therefore likely to opt for euthanasia through frustration. Should they really be allowed to exert free will?”

This doctor“ is one of some 650 signatories in a group of doctors who, in 2014, filed a request to have the law invalidated before the Superior Court of Montreal”. This request has since been withdrawn and “medically assisted euthanasia has henceforth been proclaimed a constitutional right” in a decision taken by the Canadian Supreme Court. This decision “is based on an obligation for the medical profession to provide a lethal injection, which jeopardises the right to conscientious objection”, lamented Nicholas Newman.


In palliative care services, “the majority of stakeholders are against the law”. The Quebec Association for the right to die with dignity “has also been unable to provide the name of one palliative care doctor agreeing to testify in favour of medically assisted dying”. By opposing this law, doctors are demonstrating that “euthanasia is contrary to their philosophy which is to accompany the patient right to the end”.


For the time being, “confusion reigns” with regard to the implementation of law 52: public hospitals “should follow the law”, but “who pushes the button on the syringe?”

Quebec science (22/10/2015)

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