Montreal medical malpractice lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard was recently honoured for his life’s work as the recipient of Quebec’s prestigious Prix de la Justice, an accolade presented by the provincial minister of justice and attorney general to recognize outstanding contributions to the justice system.
Ménard, who led the charge to change the country’s medical-aid-in-dying law, has been advocating on behalf of patients for more than 40 years.
However, the honour has not made Ménard consider retirement.
“Tomorrow I continue,” he said.
Ménard’s decades of legal advocacy have included fighting to protect the rights of patients, particularly the most vulnerable, against the health-care system and medical malpractice.
“This is somebody who has given time, his time — often pro bono, which means with no pay — to help people fight against the systems,” said Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel.
Most recently, Ménard won an important constitutional battle when a judge struck down parts of the provincial and federal laws on medical assistance in dying for being too restrictive.
Ménard said he is not an enemy of public health care.
“I fight against the system because I trust the system,” he said. “The system needs to be fought, but inside the health system, there is a good quality of care.”
Last year, a cancer diagnosis meant Ménard went from protector to patient as he learned he had lymphoma in his central nervous system.
“I discovered what my clients undergo,” he said.
Ménard said he received good treatment in Quebec and is now cancer-free. He’s also back to work.
“The needs are extreme so I do my best,” he said.
The lawyer is now waiting to see if the federal and provincial governments appeal the judge’s ruling on medical assistance in dying. If they do, Ménard will appear before the Court of Appeal next year.