MONTREAL – Quebec can proceed with its dying with dignity law because the Criminal Code provisions banning assisted suicide are invalid, the province’s top court ruled Tuesday.
The Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision aimed at suspending implementation of the province’s assisted-dying legislation.
A Superior Court justice ruled last month it contravened Sec. 14 of the Criminal Code, which states people cannot consent to having death inflicted on them.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled the federal law banning assisted suicide unconstitutional last February, but suspended its decision for one year to give the government time to create a new law.
“There is no doubt” the articles of the Criminal Code regarding assisted suicide “are constitutionally invalid,” the appeals court said in its ruling.
That makes exemptions to those Criminal Code provisions possible under certain circumstances and means the Quebec law is constitutional, the appeals court added.
Quebec’s assisted-dying law outlines how terminally ill patients can end their lives with medical help and was adopted by members of the national assembly in June 2014.
It officially became law Dec. 10.
The Quebec Superior Court justice ruled in favour of a group of doctors who were seeking to postpone implementation of the law until at least February.
While the Supreme Court last February gave Ottawa a year to craft a new law, the Liberal government is seeking a six-month extension on the court’s deadline which, if granted, would give it until August to come up with new euthanasia legislation that is constitutional.
WATCH: Global’s Elysia Bryan-Baynes speaks to Dr. Paul Saba, who opposes Quebec’s Dying with Dignity bill, about his thoughts on the province’s top court allowing the assisted-dying law.
The Supreme Court will hold an oral hearing on Jan. 11 as it considers whether to green-light Ottawa’s request for the extension.
In its decision Tuesday, the appeals court said Quebec’s assisted-dying law fills a judicial void by allowing patients to exercise their rights granted to them by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting terminally ill and suffering people from having access to doctor-assisted suicide deprives them of their fundamental right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Quebec is the first province to pass such a law, arguing it is an extension of end-of-life care and thus a health issue, which falls under provincial jurisdiction.