Court order puts Quebec assisted dying law on hold

Quebec assisted dying law, which was set to come into effect on December 10, has been put on hold.

Judge Michel Pinsonnault of Quebec's Superior Court issued the order in response to a request for an injunction requested by cerebral palsy patient Lisa D'Amico and doctor Paul J. Saba, joined by the federal government.

According to reports in Quebec's French-language daily Le Devoir, the judge agreed with Ottawa's argument that Quebec's new law contradicts the Criminal Code provisions criminalizing assisted death across Canada. The provisions, which are currently in force, were judged to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Supreme Court of Canada in February in the court's decision in Carter v. Canada. The Supreme Court ruling set a deadline of February 6, 2016 for its decision to enter into force, effectively striking down the Criminal Code's provisions. 

According to Le Devoir, in his decision, Judge Pinsonnault said the provisions in Quebec's law regarding assisted death, which should enter into force on December 10, should remain without effect until the invalidity of the Criminal Code provisions ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court enters into effect.

The Quebec government has said it plans to appeal the decision.

Delaying your right

Quebec patients could wait even longer than February 6 though. That is because the federal government has signalled it may ask the Supreme Court for yet another extension to delay the effectiveness of the decision in Carter.

For those with unbearable terminal or chronic illnesses, even a few months could mean the difference between a peaceful death and an enduring, painful nightmare.

The government may say more time is necessary to ensure we have clear and thoughtful legislation for physician assisted dying. But in fact, the prompt recognition of patients’ rights is absolutely not exclusive of well-reasoned laws. That is a false choice — we can have both.

Here’s why: the Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v. Canada does not require the federal or provincial governments to pass new legislation by February 6. The existing laws and regulations are sufficient to ensure that assisted dying can be administered responsibly. Instead, Ottawa and the provinces must focus on the important work of developing thoughtful, harmonized new rules that allow for timely, equitable access.

What you can do

Use Dying With Dignity Canada’s new federal Email-a-Rep tool to send a strong message to your federal MP as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Health Minister Jane Philpott. Just plug in your name, e-mail address and postal code to generate a tailored message. Then, you can either fire off the default text or add your own personal touches.

 *Photo by Scazonsome rights reserved.

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