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Court approves Ontario's 1st doctor-assisted death for 80-year-old

Last Updated Mar 17, 2016 at 2:28 pm EDT

An Ontario judge has agreed to allow a terminally-ill man to have doctors help him die.

Superior Court Justice Paul Perell gave the green light after a 30-minute hearing Thursday.

Perell also agreed there would be no need to notify the coroner after the man, who cannot be identified, dies.

“I grant the application,” Perell said, who then gave lengthy reasons for his decision, which included running through the Supreme Court’s rulings on the issue.

Neither the federal nor provincial government opposed the man’s request.


Statement from man granted right to assisted suicide

It’s the first case in Ontario, and the third in Canada outside Quebec, in which someone has sought an exemption to Criminal Code provisions on assisted suicide under a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

Court documents show the 80-year-old man, who says he has lived a “wonderful and exciting life” and has seen “so much of the world,” was diagnosed in 2012 with lymphoma. He is currently bed-ridden and in unbearable pain. His family, physicians and a psychiatrist say he is lucid and support his request to die.

“It is crippling emotionally to see someone you love in so much pain, so much distress,” the man’s daughter says in court documents.

“I am so lucky to have a beautiful family who remain close to me,” the man says in his affidavit. “Although the decision to end my suffering is one that I alone have made, it is important to me to know that I have their support.”

Court heard he will likely choose to die on the weekend.

A hematologist has offered to help him die in accordance with Quebec’s detailed protocol, court filings show.

The hematologist involved says he would be willing to prescribe two drugs – pentobarbital or secobarbital – in a dose that would be deadly if taken orally.

“However, based on inquiries I have made, I do not believe these drugs are currently available in Ontario in an oral dose of this amount,” the physician states. “Therefore, I am also willing to assist (the man) in dying by following…the ‘Quebec protocol.’”

The protocol calls for a three-step process that starts with sedation, followed by putting the patient into an artificial coma, then administering a powerful muscle relaxant that causes breathing and the heart to stop.

“First the patient will be helped to relax, then he will be put in a deep sleep and will not feel anything when he stops breathing,” according to the protocol, which stresses the patient can change his or her mind at any time.

“It is advisable to explain to those present, before starting the injections, that death might come relatively quickly, and that the heart may keep beating for a long time after breathing has stopped.”

In an affidavit, the married grandfather says he understands the planned drug injection would result in “my certain death.”

Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down laws that bar doctors from helping someone die, but put the ruling on hold for one year. The court later granted the government a four-month extension, but said the terminally ill could ask the courts for an exemption to the ban during that period.

Right to die: Court decision