Quebec law may not shield doctors
Doctors who help patients die under future Quebec legislation may still be vulnerable to criminal prosecution.
But some legal experts say a Quebec law may not be able to fully protect the doctors who chose to follow it.
It is a crime across Canada to help someone die. Quebec does not have the power to change that, but it has said that it could instruct its crown prosecutors not to press charges in certain cases.
But, what would happen if doctors assist with suicides, and then Quebec's law is later struck down by the supreme court? "It's an important question. It's a further development of this whole issue," says Margeret Somerville, a McGill law professor.
She says she does not know the answer to the question herself, but she suspects doctors could then be prosecuted. "Because Quebec doesn't have the jurisdictional power to suspend the criminal law."
Pierre Deschamps, a lawyer and ethicist at Mcgill, says doctors should wait until the matter has been dealt with by the supreme court before following the Quebec policy.
Out of province
Another question is whether doctors could be charged by crown prosecutors in other provinces if they were to ever travel outside of Quebec.
Both Deschamps and Somerville say that's something to examine. "This is a possibility. That could happen," says Deschamps.