Dying with Dignity in Québec: Palliative Care, Moral Expertise, and the Debate on Euthanasia

Nora Hutchinson


On March 22, 2012, the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity of the National Assembly of Québec released its final report recommending the adoption of “medical aid in dying” in the province of Québec, Canada.  The majority of palliative care physicians, professed experts in end of life care, rejected the committee’s conclusion.  And yet, the recommendation of the committee, in framing euthanasia as “medical aid in dying,” placed the practice squarely within the realm of their putative expertise.

The objective of this project is to examine the role of palliative care physicians in the Dying with Dignity debate in Québec and to answer the following question: why were palliative care practitioners unable to influence the outcome of the debate?

My methods include a detailed analysis of the committee proceedings of the Select Committee on Dying with Dignity and a review of the sociological literature on committees and on expertise, the philosophical literature on euthanasia, and the historical literature on palliative care.

I draw broad conclusion about: (i) committees, and the way in which committee formation and format prioritize certain societal values; (ii) medical expertise, and the devaluation of certain forms of knowledge in the evidence-based medicine framework; (iii) moral expertise, and its presumed absence in Western democratic society.


Palliative Care; Moral Expertise; Debate on Euthanasia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.26443/ijwpc.v1i1.74


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Published by McGill Library.

ISSN: 2291-918X, © McGill University Library