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Doctors assist with Quebec man’s death after he starved himself for almost 2 months

Click to play video: 'Quebec man starves himself after not qualifying for medically-assisted death'
Quebec man starves himself after not qualifying for medically-assisted death
WATCH: A Quebec man starved himself for nearly two months after the government said he wasn't sick enough to get medically-assisted death. Amanda Jelowicki spoke to the man's family about his desperate and drastic decision – Apr 13, 2016

SHERBROOKE, Que. — A Quebec man who lived with a brain illness that left him partially paralyzed resorted to desperate measures to end his own life before doctors would agree to help him die.

After two years of his condition deteriorating and suffering incredible pain, Jean Brault thought the province’s recently passed medically-assisted death law would allow him to die.

READ MORE: Right to die: Recommendations would make Canada’s assisted death among the world’s broadest

Doctors said the 60-year-old didn’t qualify for medically-assisted death because his illness wasn’t terminal. So he took matters into his own hands and starved himself for nearly two months. They finally accepted his request for help dying when he was so ill that he was near death. He passed away April 7.

“I didn’t know a person could go so long without eating,” his brother Pierre Brault told Global News.

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Pierre said feels a mixture of relief and despair over Jean’s death — relief that he’s no longer suffering, but despair about the path he took in his last months.

“I think people who have a bad quality of life… and they decide to die, I think they should be allowed,” he said Wednesday. “The law should be wider to accept these people.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg woman’s obituary says no flowers, asks for letters to politicians instead

Although Quebec’s medically-assisted dying law passed in December, Brault’s death comes on the eve of the federal government’s long-awaited legislation on medically-assisted dying.

The legislation is set to be introduced Thursday, following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in February 2015. The federal government has until June 6 to come up with the framework for medically-assisted death. In the meantime, court rulings in some provinces have allowed people to decide when to end their lives.

Proponents of the federal government’s bill hope it will respect the Supreme Court ruling. They say the decision gave the Liberals a wide berth to allow more than just terminal patients to qualify for medically-assisted death.

“If they make laws too restrictive, then we know there will be other Canadians… like [Jean] Brault, who will have to resort to desperate measures when then should not have to,” said Shanaaz Gokool of the organization Dying with Dignity.
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Dying with Dignity hopes the law also allowed for mentally ill patients — including those suffering from dementia — to qualify for assisted death.

Reports suggest, however, the legislation won’t allow for that and will take a softer approach than recommended by a parliamentary committee in February.

“My concern is, I hope people don’t have to go to the Supreme Court again,” said Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who co-chaired the Special Joint Committee of Physician-Assisted Dying. “If there are areas in the bill that are far from what we were saying, I hope the government will make a Supreme Court reference.

READ MORE: Husband of Alberta woman granted physician-assisted death fights to have her name released

As for the Brault family, Pierre said Jean died peacefully while looking outside his window towards his childhood home.

“He said, ‘When I leave this world, I want to have scenery,'” Pierre said.

Pierre hopes when the federal law comes out, other Canadians won’t have to suffer the way Jean did.

With files from Nick Logan

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