Quebec patient receives doctor-assisted death in Canadian legal first

A Quebec City patient has died with the help of a doctor in the first known case since the province allowed medical aid in dying.

Quebec City health agency confirms 1 death and another request

Quebec City's health agency has confirmed the first known case in Canada of someone legally receiving medical aid to die. (AFP/Getty Images)

A Quebec City patient has died with the assistance of a doctor, in a Canadian legal first.

A spokeswoman for the authority that oversees health care in the Quebec City region confirmed to CBC News that one patient has received medical aid in dying and a second request is being considered.

Annie Ouellet of the Quebec City Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre would offer no further details on the patient or the circumstances.

It is the first known case since the province's assisted dying law came into effect on Dec. 10, 2015.

More cases may exist

There may be more cases, but health agencies in Quebec are not obliged to report them on demand. 

CBC and Radio-Canada have contacted most of the 28 regional health authorities requesting the number of cases of medically assisted death since the law came into effect.

Some authorities have refused to release the information, citing patient confidentiality.

Others have said they are only required to release the data in reports filed every six months.

Some have confirmed to CBC that they have not had any requests for medically-assisted death.

Joanne Beauvais, a spokeswoman for provincial Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, refused to comment on the case or even to confirm the case, citing patient confidentiality.

Beauvais said a parliamentary committee will prepare a report on all cases for the Quebec National Assembly by Sept. 30 at the latest.

4 months for Ottawa to draft new law

Last month, Quebec became the first province in Canada where it became legal for terminally ill patients to choose to die with medical help.

In December, a three-judge Quebec Court of Appeal panel overturned an earlier Quebec Superior Court ruling aimed at suspending implementation of the province's dying with dignity law until certain provisions of the Criminal Code were changed.

The appeal decision stated that the Quebec law doesn't contravene sections of the Criminal Code related to assisted dying because they were struck down by Canada's Supreme Court last February.

The Court of Appeal also urged the federal government to develop federal legislation "that would apply in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada."

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments on the Trudeau government's request for a six-month extension to draft new legislation.

In a 5-4 ruling handed down Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the federal government a four-month extension to pass assisted dying legislation, rather than the six months the government had asked for. 

The court also ruled that Quebec's assisted dying law can remain in effect. 


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