Two Montrealers launch legal challenge to assisted dying laws

Two Montrealers living with degenerative diseases are going to court to challenge the federal and Quebec assisted dying laws. Both, they argue, contain restrictions that are unconstitutional.

The two plaintiffs — Jean Truchon, 49, and Nicole Gladu, 71 — say the restrictive eligibility criteria of both laws violate their Charter rights.

Alongside their lawyer, Jean-Pierre Ménard, the two plaintiffs explained at a news conference that they both suffer from serious and incurable health conditions that cause enduring and intolerable suffering. Their medical conditions, they stated, would render them eligible to access medical assistance in dying (MAID) put forward in the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Carter v. Canada.

But under the existing laws, neither qualify because they do not meet the requirement that natural death be “reasonably foreseeable.”

While neither Truchon nor Gladu are at the end of their lives, both live with unbearable suffering and would like to end that suffering with dignity.

Truchon was born with cerebral palsy and said he lived a fulfilling and independent life until 2012, when he lost the use of his one functioning limb, his left arm.

In a statement read by an assistant, Truchon said he no longer recognizes the man he once was.

“A life in institutions is not for me,” his statement read. “I’ve tasted what living for myself is like and since I’ve lost that, the daily pleasures of living are not enough anymore.”

Gladu survived polio in her childhood, but has lived with post-polio syndrome for the past 30 years, which has gradually led to a spate of health problems and the deterioration of her quality of life.

“Each breath has become for me a conscious effort which consumes three-quarters of my waning energy,” she said, adding that, unlike cancer patients who can refuse treatment, individuals living with degenerative diseases have no available options because they have no treatment.

The challenge, she said, is a way of asking for “respect” for people with degenerative diseases who “have been watching death in the face for a long time in a progressive, rather than spectacular fashion.”

At the press conference, Ménard had strong words to say about the existing laws.

 “It’s absolutely deplorable that these people who meet the law’s criteria —a serious and irremediable illness with intolerable suffering — need to go to court to have their rights met,” he said, according to a report published by the CBC.

“Simply, allow my clients and all the people in this condition to recover a right they have been deprived of unfairly and unlawfully by the federal government."

This is the first Quebec Superior Court challenge to the federal assisted dying law. Another challenge in British Columbia was launched last June, just 10 days after the law was passed.

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