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‘Time is of the essence’ in assisted dying case: chief justice


A St. John’s man will have to wait to learn whether he will be allowed to die.

The matter was heard in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on June 14, concerning a 66 year old man suffering from prostate cancer.

Lawyer Kyle Rees said that his client meets the criteria to end his own life under a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision on physician assisted suicide, namely that he is a mentally competent adult, and he is in “grievous and irremediable suffering.”

“This is a case about reducing suffering. It’s a strange application. If I’m successful, my client will die,” Rees said.

Chief Justice Raymond Whalen listened to the arguments from both Rees and provincial government lawyer Rolf Pritchard.

There is a publication ban covering aspects of the case, specifically any information which would identify the two physicians who have signed affidavits supporting the medically assisted suicide in this case.

Rees said his client was not physically up to coming to court.

Whalen didn’t deliver a ruling on last Tuesday, but said that he will make his decision on the matter quickly, acknowledging that, “Time is clearly of the essence.”

All of this takes place amid a legal vacuum. In the case of Carter v Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Criminal Code provisions relating to physician assisted dying.

Parliament was given a grace period to draft a new law, which respects an individual’s right to die in certain circumstances, but last week, the deadline passed.

In that vacuum, the provincial government has issued guidelines saying that doctors will not be prosecuted if they’re carrying out assisted suicide in line with the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Rees said that hopefully Ottawa acts soon with a new law — it would be a welcome thing if his case was made redundant.

Most of Tuesday afternoon’s argument concerned relatively arcane legal matters, but Rees said he’s hopeful that the final judgement will reassure the doctors who will ultimately end the man’s life.

But Rees said he’s hopeful that Whalen’s judgement will provide some guidelines for future cases.

 

“It would be helpful to have some guidance from this court — not only for this province but for the rest of the country on a go-forward basis — on what the extent of court involvement or solicitor involvement needs to be,” he told reporters after the hearing.

“If the clarity we receive from the court says there’s no need to come to court anymore, this is a medical decision that’s been weighed in on by the Supreme Court of Canada, and you don’t need to come back here anymore, well as far as I’m concerned, that’s a fine result.”

 

The matter was heard in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on June 14, concerning a 66 year old man suffering from prostate cancer.

Lawyer Kyle Rees said that his client meets the criteria to end his own life under a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision on physician assisted suicide, namely that he is a mentally competent adult, and he is in “grievous and irremediable suffering.”

“This is a case about reducing suffering. It’s a strange application. If I’m successful, my client will die,” Rees said.

Chief Justice Raymond Whalen listened to the arguments from both Rees and provincial government lawyer Rolf Pritchard.

There is a publication ban covering aspects of the case, specifically any information which would identify the two physicians who have signed affidavits supporting the medically assisted suicide in this case.

Rees said his client was not physically up to coming to court.

Whalen didn’t deliver a ruling on last Tuesday, but said that he will make his decision on the matter quickly, acknowledging that, “Time is clearly of the essence.”

All of this takes place amid a legal vacuum. In the case of Carter v Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Criminal Code provisions relating to physician assisted dying.

Parliament was given a grace period to draft a new law, which respects an individual’s right to die in certain circumstances, but last week, the deadline passed.

In that vacuum, the provincial government has issued guidelines saying that doctors will not be prosecuted if they’re carrying out assisted suicide in line with the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Rees said that hopefully Ottawa acts soon with a new law — it would be a welcome thing if his case was made redundant.

Most of Tuesday afternoon’s argument concerned relatively arcane legal matters, but Rees said he’s hopeful that the final judgement will reassure the doctors who will ultimately end the man’s life.

But Rees said he’s hopeful that Whalen’s judgement will provide some guidelines for future cases.

 

“It would be helpful to have some guidance from this court — not only for this province but for the rest of the country on a go-forward basis — on what the extent of court involvement or solicitor involvement needs to be,” he told reporters after the hearing.

“If the clarity we receive from the court says there’s no need to come to court anymore, this is a medical decision that’s been weighed in on by the Supreme Court of Canada, and you don’t need to come back here anymore, well as far as I’m concerned, that’s a fine result.”

 

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