Canadian assisted dying laws challenged by Montrealers with degenerative diseases

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Two Montrealers with degenerative diseases are challenging both Canada’s and Quebec’s medically-assisted dying laws.

They say the laws are too limiting in their criteria of who can access doctor assistance to die, which goes against their Charter rights.

Jean Truchon, 49, and Nicole Gladu, 71, are the two plaintiffs in the first Quebec Superior Court challenge to the federal law, which requires that death be reasonably foreseeable for a patient to receive aide to die.

Their lawyer, Jean-Pierre Ménard, says the two suffer from serious and irremediable health problems that cause persistent and intolerable suffering.

That’s not enough to qualify for assisted death under the existing laws, Ménard said, but it does meet conditions set out in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the federal government to create assisted-dying legislation.

“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,” Ménard said Wednesday morning at a news conference with the plaintiffs.

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Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, pictured in March, said he has had his own concerns with the federal law. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Barrette happy federal law being challenged

Truchon and Gladu lived most of their lives independently despite illnesses they’ve had since birth, in Truchon’s case, and early childhood in Gladu’s.

But in the past five and 20 years, respectively, their conditions have worsened to the point where they’ve lost almost all their autonomy.

Ménard says Truchon, who has cerebral palsy, managed most of his life with only one functioning limb, his left arm, until he lost use of it in 2012.​

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

“If I’m still alive today it’s because I’ve wanted to obtain the right to die with dignity through medical assistance.”

Speaking earlier Wednesday, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said he’s had his own concerns with the wording of the federal law.

“I am to some extent happy it’s being challenged,” he said.

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Canadian assisted dying laws challenged by Montrealers with degenerative diseases

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