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Quebec government wins challenge on dying in dignity law

Legislation was adopted by members of the national assembly in June 2014 and became law Dec. 10


 
Michele Constantini/Getty Images

Michele Constantini/Getty Images

MONTREAL — The Quebec government has won the latest legal battle over the province’s assisted-dying law.

Quebec’s top court has overturned a lower-court judgment aimed at suspending implementation of the law because of possible conflicts with certain provisions of the Criminal Code.

The legislation, which outlines how terminally ill patients can end their lives with medical help, was adopted by members of the national assembly in June 2014 and became law Dec. 10.

A Quebec Superior Court justice ruled in favour last month of a group of doctors who were seeking to postpone implementation of the law until at least February.

That judgment concluded certain provisions in the law run afoul of the Criminal Code, which prohibits assisted suicide.

Quebec appealed the ruling, paving the way for today’s decision.

Federal government lawyers sided with Quebec at last week’s appeal hearing, reversing the position they’d defended under the Harper government.

Those in favour of the temporary blocking of the end-of-life legislation argue that medically assisted death remains a criminal act until the federal government changes those provisions deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

They also tried to argue that medical help in dying infringes on the right to life enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Quebec is the first province to pass such a law, arguing it is an extension of end-of-life care and thus a health issue, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.

Last February, the Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted death and gave Ottawa a year to craft a new law.

The Liberal government is seeking a six-month extension on the court’s deadline which, if granted, would give it until August to come up with a new law.

The Supreme Court will hold an oral hearing on Jan. 11 as it considers whether to green-light Ottawa’s request for the extension.


 

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