MONTREAL: Two severely ill and handicapped Canadians can ask for immediate help in ending their lives, a court in the province of Quebec ruled on Wednesday, in a judgment that deemed parts of the country's existing laws governing physician-assisted suicide as unconstitutional.
Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin sided with Jean Truchon, 51, and Nicole Gladu, 73, who are both in severe pain and have incurable medical conditions. The two argued that laws governing eligibility for assisted suicide were too restrictive by limiting access to those facing "foreseeable death."
In 2016, Canada decided to allow assisted suicide under certain circumstances.
The rule which limits access to those close to death "infringes the plaintiffs' fundamental rights," the decision said.
Truchon is almost completely paralyzed because of a childhood disease, while Gladu suffers a degenerative disease after surviving polio as a child.
"I am extremely happy for the two plaintiffs," said Georges L'Espérance, president of the right to die advocacy group, l'Association québécoise pour le droit de mourir dans la dignité.
"What's most important is that they have the right to a seek a medically assisted death, even if they are not at the end of their lives."
The decision allows Gladu and Truchon to apply for physician-assisted death immediately while giving Quebec and the federal government six months to change the criteria before suspending that provision of the law.
"Canada is reviewing the decision and will carefully consider the most appropriate next steps," the federal justice department said in a statement.
(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)