March 4, 2013

A growing group of Quebec physicians is rallying opposition to the province's plans to bring in euthanasia under the euphemism "medical aid in dying."

Quebecers will renounce the right to be cared for in exchange for the right to be euthanized, warned palliative care physician Dr. Patrick Vinay. "We cannot support it."

Doctors wish to guard the relationship of confidence they have with their patients, said Vinay, former head of the University of Montreal's faculty of medicine.

Vinay spoke at a Feb. 19 news conference in Montreal sponsored by members of Physicians' Alliance for Total Refusal of Euthanasia (PATRE).

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Marc Beauchamp said, technically, giving someone a lethal injection to provoke death "is a homicide. Killing is not care.

"Doctors will become accomplices in homicide, engaging in a criminal act according to Canada's Criminal Code, if Quebec redefines medicine to include directly inducing death," Beauchamp said.

Dr. Catherine Ferrier challenged the confusion and misinformation surrounding euthanasia behind the results of a recent poll showing 86 per cent of Quebecers support it.

"I think they're misinformed," she said.

"They have not been told the truth about end of life care; they have not been told the truth about what happens where euthanasia is legal. So they are basing their decisions on false information."

Ferrier also challenged the view most Quebec physicians support euthanasia or that some doctors say euthanasia is already occurring in Quebec.

"I've never seen a case of euthanasia in 30 years of practice," the geriatrician said. She also said most doctors she encounters are opposed.

The push for euthanasia is the result of "a small group of activists manufacturing a consensus," she said. "It's an illusion."

Ferrier called for better end of life care, but admitted good palliative care is generally lacking in Quebec for all except cancer patients.


"There's a misconception that when you are dying from cancer, physical pain is inevitable," she said. In her 30 years as a physician, the number of people whose physical suffering cannot be relieved is "almost nil."

The medications are simple to use, "you just need a team," she said, noting most dying patients can be cared for at home if team members are trained properly. More difficult cases can be managed in hospital.

Vinay said bringing in euthanasia would harm the common good, diminish the lives of the sick. Palliative care is not killing, he said, warning against confusing it with euthanasia.

More than 300 physicians, most of them from Quebec, and 1,000 citizens have signed PATRE's declaration against euthanasia found on their website

Quebec's health minister has said she hopes to bring legislation before the National Assembly this spring.