The Quebec government has decided that in the spring of 2013, they will table proposed legislation to legalize doctor-assisted suicide.
The criteria were based on an all-party National Assembly committee last spring, as discussed in a previous Slaw post.
Although the Quebec government does not have the right to amend the Criminal Code, it may be circumvented by Quebec’s provincial jurisdiction over health and professional qualifications. A directive to crown prosecutors may be issued to not enforce the section of the Criminal Code prohibiting doctor-assisted suicide, providing the case fits the province’s established criteria.
Around 1994, British Columbia did the same by enacting strict guidelines as to how the Criminal Code may be applied to cases involving assisted suicide. Crown counsel will approve a prosecution only where there is a “substantial likelihood of conviction and the public interest requires a prosecution.”
This means, Quebec could follow the province of British Columbia guidelines on when criminal charges can be laid in a case of assisted suicide.
The Bill is likely to pass because Quebec’s opposition parties are in support of the measure. In my opinion, the challenge of determining how and when to apply the Criminal Code in assisted-suicide cases remains despite the guidelines. We will be paying close attention to learn how Quebec aims to direct the law in these cases, and how the Federal government will react.