Quebec's Bill 52 leads to new investments in palliative care

What will the striking down of Canada’s anti-assisted dying laws mean for the future of palliative care?

If the experiences of jurisdictions with legal end-of-life choice are any indication, we can expect the legalization of assisted death will be accompanied by significant new investments in palliative care.

This is what happened in Belgium and the Netherlands, and what is beginning to play out in Quebec, where medical aid in dying is set to become available on Dec. 10.

On Tuesday, Gaétan Barrette, the province’s minister of health, announced $10 million a year in new spending to enhance the quality and availability of end-of-life care in the province, according to a report in the Montreal Gazette. In the first year program, nearly half of the money will go to families or individuals caring for a dying loved one at home. The province also plans to open more palliative care beds and train new personal support workers to care for dying patients.

The announcement comes in response to critics of Quebec’s new right-to-die law who argue that legal assisted dying wouldn’t be necessary if residents had sufficient access to high-quality palliative care.

Barrette defended Bill 52, arguing that patients in incredible suffering should have an array of end-of-life choices, including both palliative and medical aid in dying.

"We are just implementing a law that says 'You have the right to make the decision, we will help you in the proper way, but at the same time, we will offer you the best palliative care possible,'" he said.

When Bill 52 comes into effect next month, terminally ill Quebecers experiencing unbearable suffering will have the right to die with the help of a physician.

Nine months after the Supreme Court struck down the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying, Quebec remains the only province to have passed end-of-life choice legislation.

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