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Federal government asks court for more time to amend assisted dying law

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti poses for a portrait on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. .
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti poses for a portrait on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The federal government is asking for more time to amend the assisted-dying law, acknowledging that it can’t meet a court-imposed deadline to drop a provision that allows only those who are already near death to qualify for medical help to end their lives.

Justice Minister David Lametti filed a motion Monday requesting a four-month extension on the court ruling.

READ MORE: New study finds medical aid in dying not driven by lack of access to palliative care

Quebec Superior Court Judge Christine Baudouin ruled last September that it is unconstitutional to limit the right to a medically assisted death to those whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

She gave the government until March 11 to drop that provision from the law.

Taking time to study the medically aid in dying law
Taking time to study the medically aid in dying law

The Trudeau government declined to appeal but has not yet introduced the necessary amendments to the law.

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It launched public consultations last month, including an online survey that asked whether other hurdles should be added to the law once the foreseeable-death provision is removed,to ensure a balance is maintained between individual rights and protecting vulnerable people from potential abuse.

READ MORE: Majority of Canadians surveyed support broader assisted dying law: Leger poll

In a joint statement Monday by Lametti and Health Minister Patty Hajdu, the ministers said the government fully intends to introduce legislation “in the near future” but a four-month extension “would give Parliament time to consider and enact proposed amendments.”

Technically, the court ruling applies only in Quebec.

Without the extension, the ministers noted that the foreseeable death provision would no longer apply in Quebec after March 11 but would remain in force in the rest of the country.

Assisted dying consultation
Assisted dying consultation