Quebec doctors' support for euthanasia raises ethical questions

David Roy, a professor of medical ethics in Montreal, said there is no way anyone can craft a law that could cover only extreme situations.

“I would challenge the college to try to draft a law — hire as many lawyers as they want — that would cover just extreme circumstances and still have safeguards. When you open the door to euthanasia, there’s no way to control how widely that door will open or whether or not it will come entirely off its hinges.”

He said he hopes the debate revives training for doctors in ethics and palliative care, which he says is sorely lacking. Physicians have to learn to speak to the dying or they will not understand what a person who is suffering is actually asking, he said.

“I’ve worked in a burn unit for 15 years. A patient may say they want to die in the morning, but by the afternoon they change their mind. How do you deal with the question of ambivalence?,” Mr. Roy said.

He acknowledged that there are certain cases of unbearable suffering that the best palliative care may not be able to control. But he said the law should remain against euthanasia to make sure a doctor never acts rashly.

“In that case the doctor should administer death, if his conscience says there is no other way. But he should do it with fear and trembling and then be willing to face the consequences.”

© The National Post

Keywords: euthanasia, doctors, healthcare