Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A Quebec judge has struck down a restriction that limited assisted dying to terminally ill patients, concluding the requirement was an unconstitutional barrier that forced two Quebeckers with incurable conditions to keep living in great pain.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin’s decision, released as a federal election kicked off on Wednesday, could reverberate across the country and the campaign.

The portion of the federal assisted-dying law that Justice Baudouin singled out as unconstitutional – a clause that required patients’ natural deaths to be “reasonably foreseeable" – was championed by the Trudeau government, even though legal experts warned it was out of step with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that paved the way for medically assisted dying. The earlier case was initiated by 89-year-old Kay Carter, who had spinal stenosis.

Story continues below advertisement

The Liberal government has argued that its approach struck a balance between granting access to new end-of-life options and protecting the vulnerable.

“Three years ago, when the [federal] law was being debated, we raised concerns about the reasonably foreseeable criterion, arguing that it does not comply with the Carter decision," said Cory Ruf, a spokesman for the advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada, which intervened in the Quebec case.

Since then, Mr. Ruf said, the group has heard from Canadians who later starved themselves, died by suicide or travelled to Switzerland for assisted deaths after failing to qualify because their natural deaths were not imminent.

“The prospect of rules like this being removed and Canada’s assisted dying law being brought closer to the ruling in Carter, that comes as a relief to us,” he added.

André Picard: Medically assisted dying laws are changing, and it’s about time

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities said the Quebec judgment would diminish the value of their lives.

“People with disabilities have been told, with this decision, that simply having a disability is reason enough for us to want to die," said Amy Hasbrouck, director of Toujours Vivant-Not Dead Yet, a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, which also intervened in the Quebec case.

Wednesday’s ruling arose from a constitutional challenge filed by Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu, Quebeckers with incurable degenerative illnesses.

Story continues below advertisement

Justice Baudouin suspended her ruling for six months to allow legislators to deal with its fallout, but exempted the two plaintiffs, allowing them to proceed with their bids for medical assistance in dying.

The ruling refers to the federal assisted-dying law, passed in June, 2016, and Quebec’s end-of-life care law, which took effect in late 2015 and required patients to be at the end of life.

Quebec Social Services Minister Danielle McCann said the provincial government will carefully analyze the ruling before deciding what to do. “Every step of the way for this issue has seen big evolutions,” she said in Quebec City.

The federal justice department is also reviewing the decision before deciding whether to appeal, a spokeswoman said.

Mr. Truchon and Ms. Gladu met all the requirements of the federal and Quebec laws, except that their deaths were not imminent.

Denying them access to assisted dying because they are not terminally ill is “forcing them to endure harsh physical and psychological suffering,” Justice Baudouin said in her 197-page judgment.

Story continues below advertisement

“The court has no hesitation in concluding that the requirement that their death has to be reasonably foreseeable is violating the rights to liberty and security of [the plaintiffs.]”

The court heard that Mr. Truchon, 51, has spastic cerebral palsy with a gradual weakening of his legs and right arm.

He was active until 2012, when his left arm became paralyzed. He became suicidal and considered moving his wheelchair into the path of a bus or drowning himself in a river, but did not want to traumatize or hurt bystanders.

“He can no longer live on his own. … He says he has been dead since 2012,” Justice Baudouin wrote.

Ms. Gladu, 73, contracted polio when she was four, leaving her with a paralyzed left side and scoliosis.

She had a career as a journalist and press officer at the United Nations. Her condition started to worsen in 1992, weakening her bones and muscles. She now lives in constant pain, and has trouble breathing and moving.

Story continues below advertisement

“She feels worn down, at the end of her tether, a prisoner of her body and illness,” Justice Baudouin wrote.

A spokeswoman for the federal NDP said the decision shows why the law needs to be amended.

“The NDP will continue fighting for [medical assistance in dying] legislation that respects Charter rights and ensures Canadians can die with dignity, compassion and fairness, and without excessive suffering,” Mélanie Richer said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters he wanted time to review the decision, but governments need to respect court rulings.

Liberal campaign spokesperson Guy Gallant said the party would look at the decision carefully.

When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Criminal Code provisions forbidding assisted dying in 2015, its unanimous decision did not say that suffering patients would have to be near death to qualify.

Story continues below advertisement

The Liberals decided to add that condition to their legislation. The law was passed on June 17, 2016.

At least 6,749 people – and likely many more – have received an assisted death since the Quebec and federal laws were passed, according to Health Canada. The national figures are as of Oct. 31, 2018, and do not include the territories.

With reports from Les Perreaux and Marieke Walsh

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name Justice Baudouin.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies