QUEBEC, October 9, 2012 ( – Quebec’s newly elected government announced that it plans to table legislation legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide as early as next spring, even though Canadian federal law prohibits the practice.

A spokeswoman for the minority Parti Quebecois government of Premier Pauline Marois said the proposed legislation was part of the party’s election platform and was based on recommendations from the report of the province’s Special Commission on Dying with Dignity.

While some media outlets reported that the commission recommended the legalization of assisted suicide in exceptional cases, Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition pointed out that it actually advocates euthanasia, similar to how it is practiced in Belgium, which he said “is not limited to exceptional cases.”

According to the Dying with Dignity report, persons opting for “medical aid in dying” must be residents of Quebec, adults, must have freely requested the “medical help” to die, must suffer from a “serious and incurable disease,” must have a medical situation with “no prospects of improvement,” and must be experiencing “physical or psychological suffering which is constant and unbearable.”

“We really feel that it is necessary to put forward such a possibility for people who, at the end of their life, are suffering in an unbearable manner,” said Véronique Hivon, Quebec’s Junior Minister of Social Services.

“We’re really talking about people who have unbearable suffering and who have no chance of improving their quality of life and whose death is really going to happen.”

While Canada’s criminal code prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide, Hivon asserts that Quebec can circumvent the federal legislation by passing a law instructing crown attorneys not to prosecute cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide as long as the case fits the province’s criteria. 

“Quebec has jurisdiction over health and also over professional qualifications,” Hivon said, which “gives us the confidence to introduce this medical aid in dying in our bill.”

Alex Schadenberg said that the government appears to be attempting to legalize euthanasia through the “back door,” to get around the fact that it does not have the “legal authority to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide.”

Georges Buscemi of Quebec Life Coalition said the PQ’s decision to introduce euthanasia legislation under the euphemism of “medical aid in dying” was disappointing, but not surprising.

“But as unsurprised as I am, I’m still amazed at how cynical the PQ has become,” said Buscemi. “They know that Quebec can’t, as a province, legalize something that is criminal under Canada’s criminal code. So instead they will call euthanasia ‘medical aid in dying’ and allow that, and somehow this is supposed to fool the federal government? How droll!”

“I would also like to remind the CAQ (Coalition Avenir Quebec) that they ran on a federalist ticket, the leader François Legault even going so far as to promise not to vote ‘yes’ on a next [separation] referendum,” Buscemi added. “But news reports say that the CAQ is ready to support this dubious legislation. Perhaps Legault should be reminded that it is not very becoming of a federalist party to attempt to circumvent the laws of the federation.”

The Parti Quebecois has the backing of the 19 MNAs of Francois Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on the proposed euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation, but as of press time the Liberals have remained silent on the issue.

The government’s proposal may face steep opposition from Quebecers. According to an independent analysis of the 427 oral presentations and written submissions to the Commission on Dying with Dignity conducted by Vivre dans la Dignité (Living With Dignity), a grassroots anti-euthanasia group, Quebecers who voiced their opinion overwhelmingly opposed legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Vivre dans la Dignité found that only about a third (34%) of those who submitted to the Commission were either somewhat or strongly in favor of euthanasia, whereas 60 percent of the submissions opposed any opening for euthanasia, whereas there was almost unanimous agreement that improvement in palliative care was essential.

Living with Dignity also pointed out that a further analysis of the content of the submissions of those who apparently favored euthanasia showed significant confusion between directly taking a patient’s life by euthanasia and assisted suicide, and ceasing futile treatment, which is universally acknowledged as being ethical.