Medical assistance to die: the Supreme Court hears Ottawa

1102884Ottawa appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) on Monday to get more time to develop a new law on medical help to die.

Government counsel Robert Frater, argued that this kind of issue requires much thought and that it was “not an easy decision.”

In February 2015, the judges of the highest court of the country had made a unanimous decision, invalidating particular section of the Criminal Code which prohibits a doctor to help someone – in specific circumstances – to kill themselves.

They were granted 12 months to the federal government to provide a legislative response respecting the right of consenting adults with unbearable physical or mental suffering, to seek help from their doctor to end their days.

The record, a long time on the ice by the Conservative government, led on the desk of the Liberals, who took over in Ottawa in October. The schedule is fast approaching, the federal therefore ask the Court to give him a six-month suspended sentence.

Mr. Frater argued that a period of six months was not a long stay of a democratic process perspective. Justice Rosalie Abella, at that time, raised as a person who suffered without being able to end his days there was rather a long delay.

The situation is different in Quebec, which adopted its own law on end of life care. The Court of Appeal allowed Quebec to move forward with medical help to die, without waiting for the response of Ottawa and reversing a decision of the Superior Court.

Ottawa does not object to the exemption of Quebec, said Mr. Frater. The Federal however would not want to see this broader exemption to patients from other provinces who wish to end their days.

Meanwhile, the government established a special committee to consult on medical help to die. Five senators were appointed, but it remains unclear which members will sit on the committee. Time is short, since the group must submit its final report no later than February 26.

Mr. Frater argued Monday that even if all the committee members had not been selected, nothing prevented the members from the Senate to move forward and begin their work.

Pleading for callers, Joseph Arvay has meanwhile insisted that granting an extension of time would prolong the intolerable suffering of some patients. He argued that the public was already protected by the SCC decision on the issue.

Me Arvay also criticized the government for having dragged its feet in the folder and handed questioned the relevance of traveling the country to consult the public on this issue.

The Court did not rule on this immediately suspended.

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