A growing group of doctors are speaking out against medical aid in dying, as Quebec moves forward with the process of drafting its controversial "dying with dignity" legislation.
The man known as the father of palliative care, Dr. Balfour Mount, has strong opinions when it comes to end of life care.
"Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide makes it necessary for a society to legalize killing — ending life. It's a switch in goals," he told a crowd that gathered in downtown Montreal on Saturday to unite against the practice.
In March 2012, a landmark report recommended doctors be allowed to help terminally ill patients die in exceptional circumstances if they want to.
Nearly one year later, Quebec announced it would proceed with its so-called "dying with dignity" legislation.
The move has ignited a debate in Quebec.
'It gives the message that the lives of people with disabilities are less worth fighting for.' —Amy Hasbrouck, Director of Not Dead Yet
Mount is one of 500 doctors who have joined together under the Physicians’ Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia.
Hundreds of Quebec physicians have signed a declaration calling on the province to stop the legislation. They argue that provoking death voluntarily is not medical care and goes against medical ethics.
Some opponents are concerned about how the legislation would start a slippery slope.
Many critics point to the case of the 45-year-old deaf Belgian twins, who chose to die by lethal injection after learning they were going blind, as an example of how medical aid in dying can go too far.
Amy Hasbrouck, director of Not Dead Yet, said the legislation could devalue the lives of many Quebecers and infringe on the rights of people who have disabilities.
"It gives the message that the lives of people with disabilities are less worth fighting for. They’re less valuable," Hasbrouck said.
'It’s just too simple to cut things short because there’s a moment of discouragement, of despair.' —Dr. Catherine Ferrier, MUHC Geriatrics Division
Dr. Catherine Ferrier, a physician at Montreal General Hospital, says she’s concerned some of her patients could be persuaded to end their lives.
She specializes in geriatrics, and says many of her patients depend on others to help make decisions.
"It would be very easy to push someone like that into saying ‘well yes, I’ve had enough, my life is too hard and I would rather die,’" Ferrier said.
In other cases, Ferrier said victims of chronic illnesses might opt for medical aid in dying when they are in a moment of desperation.
"It’s just too simple to cut things short because there’s a moment of discouragement, of despair."