This case began when two people from Montreal filed a civil suit against the federal and Quebec governments challenging the “reasonably foreseeable,” requirement of the federal statute, and the “end of life” eligibility criterion in the Québec statute.
Jean Truchon is a man in his forties living with cerebral palsy. After completing a bachelor’s degree in literature at Laval University in 1992, he moved into his own apartment and received in-home assistance with daily activities.
Mr. Truchon played wheelchair ball hockey and had an active social life until late 2011. At that time, he began to experience spinal stenosis – a narrowed spinal column. This caused cervical dystonia (a neurological disorder involving involuntary contraction of the neck and shoulder muscles), as well as myelomalacia (decaying of the spinal cord due to blockage of spinal arteries). He lost the use of his left arm – his only functioning limb – as a result.
Mr. Truchon exchanged his hand-controlled electric wheelchair for one that could be controlled by mouth. He moved into a long-term care facility, where he has since struggled with the restrictions of institutional life. Mr. Truchon came up with a series of plans to commit suicide. These include a heroin overdose, being hit by a car, and refusing food and water. Though the depression he experienced in 2014 has reportedly ended, he still wishes to end his life.
Nicole Gladu, now in her seventies, contracted polio around the age of four. She was left with permanent weakness on her left side, severe scoliosis, and function in only half a lung. Ms. Gladu was able to obtain a university degree from the University of Montreal and went on to have a successful career in communications.
In 1989, Ms. Gladu became depressed and was prescribed medication. She was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome a few years later. This condition causes progressive muscle weakness and fatigue. She can no longer use her left arm, has severe back pain, and must use breathing supports at night. Ms. Gladu also has a stomach hernia that compromises her digestion and breathing. Around 2001, she went through a second period of depression which was apparently relieved at the thought of ending her life.
Surgery to repair a broken femur in 2011 increased Ms. Gladu’s pain, caused issues with balance, and has left her at risk of falls. She continues to be anxious about having to leave her home permanently, and her dependence on others.
Neither Mr. Truchon nor Ms. Gladu is eligible for assisted suicide; their deaths are not “reasonably foreseeable” nor are they at the “end of life”. Disability advocates believe the loss of autonomy the plaintiffs loathe stems from public policy that favours institutional care over community-based home-care options. They believe changing this public policy is a better solution than killing disabled people whose wish for autonomy is frustrated.