Quebec has become the first Canadian province to legalise euthanasia. Bill 52 easily passed in the National Assembly yesterday by a vote of 94 to 22. "I want to congratulate ourselves as parliamentarians," said Carole Poirier, of the Parti Quebecois. "Quebec is a beautiful society, and again today Quebec has just shown that we are really, really a different society."
Under the new law, an adult who is terminally ill, of sound mind, and in constant and unbearable physical and psychological pain may request a lethal injection. Quebec now joins the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg as the fourth jurisdiction in which euthanasia is legal. Assisted suicide is legal in across the border in Washington state and Oregon, but not euthanasia.
The battle over the controversial law is not over, however. Under the Canadian constitution, the criminal code is a Federal responsibility -- and it bans euthanasia. Therefore Quebec's legislation uses the euphemism "medical aid in dying" instead and describes it as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
"It is for the courts to decide if any province is legislating within its jurisdiction," a spokeswoman for federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, said. "It is our government's position that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia are constitutionally valid, and in place to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable in our society."
A group has already launched an appeal to Canada's Supreme Court against the law. A family doctor, Paul J. Saba, and a handicapped woman, Lisa D'Amico, claim that euthanasia is not medical care, that the law is unconstitutional and that "Doctors would be in violation of their Code of Ethics as well as Federal criminal law."
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet