Dying With Dignity Canada urges lawmakers to accept Quebec ruling on assisted dying

Dying With Dignity Canada is cheering a Quebec judge’s decision to strike down a restriction in Bill C-14, Canada’s federal assisted dying law.

Launched in June 2017, the Quebec constitutional challenge targeted eligibility rules in Bill C-14 and in Bill 52, Quebec’s provincial assisted dying law, that the plaintiffs said unfairly deny them their right to medical assistance in dying (MAID). Montreal residents Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu both suffer from severe, chronic medical conditions and wish to exercise their right to an assisted death. Both were told that they did not qualify for MAID under Bill C-14 because their natural deaths were not “reasonably foreseeable.”

In a court decision announced Wednesday, Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin struck down Bill C-14’s “reasonably foreseeable” rule as well as a clause in Quebec’s Bill 52 restricting MAID access to only those applicants who are at “end of life.” These restrictions, she ruled, infringe the plaintiffs’ Section 7 Charter right to life, liberty and security of the person. Justice Baudouin also found that the rules violate Truchon’s and Gladu’s Section 15 right to equal treatment under the law.

The leading Canadian charity defending end-of-life rights, Dying With Dignity Canada (DWDC) applauded Justice Baudouin’s decision, adding that it’s a positive next step towards fairer rules for assisted dying. “First and foremost, we are relieved for Mr. Truchon and Madame Gladu, who have been unfairly obstructed in their quest to access assisted dying,” said DWDC Board Chair James Cowan on Wednesday. “People saddled with enduring, intolerable suffering should not have to wait years or even decades to realize their right to a peaceful death.”

DWDC, in partnership with its Quebec sister organization, L’association pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité (AQDMD), intervened in court in support of the plaintiffs. In their written and oral submissions, the two organizations argued that the reasonably foreseeable criterion imposes unnecessary, unbearable suffering on many patients who wish to access MAID and unfairly discriminates against them on the basis of their medical conditions.

Justice Baudouin suspended her ruling for six months, meaning that it is set to come into force on March 11, 2020. However, she gave Truchon and Gladu exemptions that would allow them to access MAID in the interim.

DWDC is calling on federal and provincial leaders to accept Wednesday’s judgment. “With this historic ruling, our country has an unprecedented opportunity to bring our assisted dying laws closer in line with the vision of compassion and personal choice laid out in the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Carter v. Canada,” Cowan said. “We ask our leaders to seize this opportunity rather than force suffering people to go to court to assert their constitutional right to a medically assisted death.”