Civil rights watchdog thrilled by Quebec decision affirming right to die with dignity

THE British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) said on Wednesday that it was thrilled with the Quebec Superior Court’s decision that Canada and Quebec’s assisted dying laws, which restrict medical assistance in dying to individuals with terminal illnesses, are unconstitutional.

The court explained that Canada’s law violates s. 7 and 15 of Charter, and Quebec’s law violates s. 15 of the Charter, because they do not permit assistance in dying for Canadians who are suffering with no immediate end in sight.

The lawsuit was launched by Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, two Canadians who have serious health conditions which cause them intolerable suffering. Truchon has cerebral palsy, spinal stenosis, and myelomalacia. He cannot use any of his limbs. Gladu has a variety of health conditions, including post-polio and severe scoliosis. Both Truchon and Gladu requested medical assistance in dying, but their requests were denied because they were not at the end of their lives.

The BCCLA noted that it has been a leader in the fight for the right to die with dignity. Medical assistance in dying was legalized in Canada following the BCCLA’s historic victory at the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada.

Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BCCLA, said: “We are thrilled with the Truchon decision. It confirms that Canadians who are seriously ill and face enduring and intolerable suffering have the right to die with dignity, even if they are not at the end of life. Medical and nurse practitioners are not required to have a crystal ball to predict the length of time a person has to live.

“The Quebec Superior Court recognized that the Canada’s and Quebec’s laws force some people with serious and incurable diseases to live in prolonged agony or suffer an unbearable dying process. The laws force people to take matters into their own hands, sometimes refusing food and water or critical medical treatment to make their deaths foreseeable. This is cruel and wrongheaded, and flies in the fact of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v. Canada.

We applaud the Quebec Superior Court for recognizing that Canadians deserve that peace and dignity that comes from knowing that if their agony becomes unbearable, they have the constitutional right to seek the assistance of a medical or nurse practitioner to have a compassionate and peaceful death. The BCCLA calls on the federal government and government of Quebec to accept the compassionate, well-reasoned ruling of the Quebec Superior Court. It would be shameful for these governments to appeal this decision.”

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