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Quebec Court Upholds First Doctor-Assisted Dying Law

by Bidita Debnath on January 4, 2016 at 2:02 AM
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 Quebec Court Upholds First Doctor-Assisted Dying Law

Recent polling shows a strong majority of Canadians - 85 percent - support the right to die. Some form of physician-assisted dying is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and in a handful of US states.

A Quebec court upheld Canada's first assisted dying law, ruling against doctors who argued it conflicts with federal criminal law an could see doctors jailed for helping someone die. Opponents had asked for an injunction to delay the law's roll-out until Ottawa amends the nation's Criminal Code, but the Court of Appeal of Quebec ruled that there is no conflict.

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The Quebec legislation, which outlines how terminally ill patients can end their lives with doctors' help, was adopted in June 2014 by the Quebec legislature in response to public demand. And in February, Canada's Supreme Court quashed a section of the national Criminal Code prohibiting assisted suicide, effectively authorizing it for consenting adults with serious health problems.

But it suspended its ruling for one year to allow parliamentarians an opportunity to enact new rules surrounding the divisive issue. Canada's new Liberal government has asked for a six-month extension to consider the issue. The Court of Appeal of Quebec said the Quebec law "does not conflict with either the effect or the objectives of the order" by Canada's Supreme Court invalidating related criminal law.
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In fact, it said, "the suspension order is directed precisely at allowing Parliament, and the provincial legislatures who wish to do so, to legislate with respect to physician-assisted death promptly and within their respective legislative spheres."

The Supreme Court's decision reversed its own 1993 ruling in the case of Sue Rodriguez, a pioneer in the fight for the right to die in Canada. At that time, the court had expressed concern about protecting vulnerable persons, but in its newer ruling pointed to changed Canadian social values.

Source: AFP
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