Quebec's assisted dying law debated at Court of Appeal

Although Quebec's assisted dying law has been in effect for only eight days, its fate was placed in the hands of the province's top court on Friday.

Province appeals court ruling that would delay giving terminally ill patients the choice to die

Doctor-assisted deaths became legal for terminally ill patients in Quebec on Dec. 10, 2015. (Reuters)

Although Quebec's assisted dying law has been in effect for only eight days, its fate was placed in the hands of the province's top court on Friday.

The Quebec Court of Appeal heard arguments about province's new law, which went into effect on Dec. 10, giving terminally ill patients the right to choose to die.

The province is appealing an earlier ruling made on Dec. 1 by Quebec Superior Court, in which Justice Michel Pinsonnault said medically assisted dying conflicts with the federal Criminal Code.

Paul Saba, head of a Quebec-based doctors coalition that is contesting the law, said his group will argue in court the appeal should be dismissed.

He said the Quebec government has an immediate obligation to provide improved palliative care.

Paul Saba of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice says improved care should be the priority, not end-of-life legislation. (CBC)
"Euthanasia is not medical care or a solution for suffering," said Saba, leader of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice.

Arguments wrapped up shortly after noon at the Quebec Court of Appeal, without a decision from the three-judge panel.

No clear indication was given for when a decision may come.

Bill 52 allows patients who are at the end of their lives to ask a doctor for a medically assisted death. Individual doctors can refuse to help a patient die, but a hospital cannot opt out of providing the service.

Federal case to be heard Jan. 11

In a related case last February, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that a federal law that makes it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to assist people to die in specific situations.

Ottawa has until February 2016 to modify existing laws, but the federal Liberal government has requested a six-month extension to ensure "a thoughtful, sensitive and well-informed response."

In a submission made to the Supreme of Canada on Wednesday to bolster its request, the government argued giving effect to a landmark decision on physician-assisted dying will require full parliamentary consideration as well as provincial legislation.

Several parties have filed arguments on the federal request. 

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from all sides on the request for an extension starting Jan. 11.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?