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Canada

Quebec judge overturns parts of federal, provincial laws on medically assisted dying

A Quebec Superior Court justice has declared parts of both the federal and provincial laws on medically assisted dying unconstitutional because they're too restrictive.

Two Montrealers with degenerative diseases, Jean Truchon, 49, and Nicole Gladu, 73, launched a court challenge in January seeking access to Quebec and Canada's doctor-assisted dying laws.

Both suffer from serious health problems that their lawyer argued cause persistent and intolerable suffering.

Federal and provincial laws currently say only people who are facing "foreseeable death" can receive aid to die.

Truchon and Gladu argued the laws are too narrow in their criteria and run counter to their Charter rights.

In a decision released Wednesday, Justice Christine Baudouin largely agreed with Truchon and Gladu's arguments.

"The court finds that the statutory provision requiring natural death be reasonably foreseeable infringes life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed by Section 7 of the Charter to Mr. Jean Truchon and Ms. Nicole Gladu, in a manner inconsistent with the principles of fundamental justice," Baudouin said.

She also found the provision violated their right to equality.

Lawyers for the federal government argued that the "foreseeable death" criterion is necessary to protect "vulnerable" people who are suffering from serious ailments but are not fatally ill from using the law as a way to die by suicide.

Tuesday's decision suspends parts of the law for six months to give governments time to come up with something new.

It also grants an exemption to Gladu and Truchon that allows them to apply for medically assisted death immediately.

The federal and provincial governments could appeal the decision. 

Quebec Premier François Legault said in January he's open to changing the law to give those who are seriously ill, but not facing imminent death, access to medically assisted dying.

But he said the government wanted to take time to study the issue and that it wouldn't be a quick process.

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