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Canada

UPDATED: Quebec court invalidates some requirements for assisted death

In a groundbreaking ruling, a Superior Court judge has granted two Quebecers the right to seek medical assisted death after both had been turned aside by their physicians.

Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu are both severely handicapped by degenerative illnesses that, while not immediately life-threatening, are quickly eroding their quality of life. Both say they suffer immense physical and psychological pain daily, while Truchon told the courts he has contemplated killing himself by hurling his wheelchair in front of a métro car.

They had applied for the right to physician-assisted death, but since the Criminal Code dictates that “natural, reasonably foreseeable death” is a prerequisite, both were turned down. They took their fight to the courts.

In her ruling published Wednesday, Judge Christine Beaudoin invalidated those sections of the Criminal Code. The judge writes that this requirement violates Sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — which guarantee the right to life, liberty and a person’s safety.

Beaudoin’s is delaying her ruling by six months so the federal government can amend the Criminal Code. In the meantime, she has given Truchon and Gladu a constitutional exemption to the Criminal Code so they can end their lives under medical supervision.

The National Assembly unanimously adopted the country’s first medically assisted death legislation in 2014. Under the law, adults facing incurable illness could seek a doctor’s assistance in dying provided they were lucid and their death was imminent.

The right to die under medical supervision won a major victory in 2015 after two British Columbia residents took their case to the Supreme Court. The high court ruled that consenting adults who faced incurable illness should have access to medically-assisted death.

That ruling was used as the foundation for the federal government to modify the Criminal Code in 2016.

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