Saba takes Bill 52 to court

Lachine doctor representing handicapped woman worried about bill becoming law

By Kevin Woodhouse

While the provincial government is poised to make Bill 52 “Dying with dignity” a law, Dr. Paul Saba and 48-year-old Lisa D’Amico, who has been handicapped all her life, are filing a motion of Declaratory Judgment at Montreal’s Superior Court decrying the bill as illegal and illicit.

Dr. Saba contends that allowing euthanasia to go ahead is against the law and should not be considered since “it is not medical care and Quebec does not have jurisdiction to legislate on this subject.”

The doctor, who is the president of Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, is presenting the motion as a physician and contends that the practice of “euthanasia is contrary to the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Rights, the Criminal Code of Canada, The Civil Code of Quebec, the Health and Social Services Act of Quebec, the Doctors’ Code of Ethics and The Constitution Act, 1867.

“Bill 52 does not constitute medical care,” Dr. Saba told The Suburban. “It is outside of the jurisdiction of government, is unconstitutional, illegal and illicit because it goes against code of medical practice and is forcing patients to be euthanized when they are faced with suffering because of lack of medical care including palliative care when in fact government can provide alternatives which they failed to do.” 

D’Amico, whose parents have passed away and her only sibling is also handicapped, is worried that the passage of the bill into law could ultimately affect her since euthanasia will be recognized as medical care, something she completely disagrees with.

“We don’t have the services we need in the province and a lot of people suffer because they don’t have access to services and medicines,” D’Amico told The Suburban. “Only about 20 percent in the province can get palliative care and none is available in the publicsector.

“I’m outraged that Premiere Philippe Couillard would make Bill 52 a priority,” said D’Amico. “I don’t want the choice to die with dignity but rather live with dignity, until my last dying breath.”

She also explained that all of her life, decisions for her health have been made by “doctors, therapists and social workers. And because I am handicapped, I am poor and without money for private services so when we need something it isn’t us who decide but the therapists, social workers and doctors.”

D’Amico said that the only reason she is taking this issue to trial is that a lawyer has agreed to work for her pro bono. If she had the economic means, she would leave the province on the day Bill 52 is passed “but I’m a prisoner here. What will happen if one day I’m bed ridden and someone makes the decision for me? And what constitutes end of life? Someone who has been very sick or has two, three weeks to live? A month? Two years? Nothing like that is written in the law.” 

“It is illogical to entrust doctors only to verify the conditions for euthanasia and provide the lethal injection, as this would cause them to be in violation of their Code of Ethics as well as the criminal law,” explained Dr. Saba. “According to the Canadian Society of palliative care doctors, euthanasia is an act consisting of deliberately causing death of another person in order to put an end to suffering. Palliative care does not include the practice of euthanasia.”
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