Doctor-assisted death in Quebec could face delay: Health Minister Gaétan Barrette

The introduction of medically assisted death in Quebec could be delayed because of an injunction from a doctors' group and an appeal from the federal health minister to wait, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said Thursday.

Injunction request and appeal from Ottawa means Dec. 10 enactment of Quebec law could be put off

Gaétan Barrette says Quebec is ready to meet the Dec. 10 start date for the implementation of medically-assisted death in Quebec. (CBC)

The introduction of medically assisted death in Quebec could be delayed, Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said Thursday.

Quebec's new law allowing doctor-assisted death is set to take effect Dec. 10.

Barrette said a Quebec court heard arguments Wednesday in an injunction request filed by a provincial physicians' group.

If the injunction is granted, Quebec will have to abide by that decision, Barrette said.

Barrette incorrectly identified the group as the MQRP, a group representing 500 physicians and medical residents committed to public health care.

His spokeswoman corrected that Thursday afternoon, saying Quebec Superior Court heard arguments for an injunction request on Tuesday from Paul Saba of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice and Lisa D'Amico, a disabled woman opposed to the medically assisted suicide.

Saba told CBC News that the Superior Court is now considering their request, but could not provide a time-frame for an expected decision.

Federal law being rewritten

Barrette was taking reporters questions on news that federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had placed a courtesy call to her Quebec counterpart, asking the province to delay the implementation of medically assisted death while Ottawa rewrites federal legislation.

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.

At the time, the Supreme Court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling.

"All that's been asked of us is to hold off while the federal government reflects on the matter. That could maybe take six months. But that's all they've asked of us," Barrette said. 

"I believe Quebec is within the boundaries of federal criminal law, and there are no problems with our law," he said.

As things stand, Quebec is ready for the Dec. 10 introduction of medically-assisted death, Barrette said.

"Things are in place, teams are there, support groups are there, our development plan for the next five years has been tabled, we're ready to go - and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't."