At least one person and perhaps three have been euthanased in Quebec since the Canadian province’s legislation went into effect in December. Dr. Georges L’Espérance, president of the death-with-dignity group l’Association québécoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité, said that he was not aware of the circumstances surrounding the deaths.
Dr. L’Espérance does not believe that the number of euthanasia deaths will be very large. “Considering our population here and what has happened in other countries (where euthanasia is legal), I would be very surprised if we have more than 50 or 60 cases in the first year,” he told the National Post.
Quebec health authorities say that data on euthanasia will be confidential. The first figures will be released in June.
The legality of the deaths is disputed. Although the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition of assisted suicide and euthanasia in February 2015, Quebec is the only province which has passed a law regulating it. Technically, however, this conflicts with the still-extant national criminal code. Drafting of new legislation has been held up by a change of government after October’s election.
To solve this, the Supreme Court last week permitted assisted suicide across the country under certain circumstances, while granting the government four more months to pass regulations.
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However, the deaths in Quebec preceded the Supreme Court’s concession and thus were technically illegal. Columnist Peter Stockland was scathing in his criticism of the province’s independent spirit:
“it proceeded with the assisted suicide while maintaining the pretence of participating in the legal process. I do not know if that technically constitutes contempt of court. But I do know a very contemptuous nose thumbing when I see it.”