MAID Legislation and Policies Facing Legal Challenge from Civil Liberties Association

Death-with-Dignity-banner-013Constitutional Challenge to the Federal Medical Assistance in Dying Legislation

The federal government’s medical assistance in dying (“MAID”) legislation is already facing a legal challenge, only two short weeks after it was passed. On June 27, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (“BCCLA”) and Julia Lamb, a 25 year old woman from Chilliwack, British Columbia with a progressive neurodegenerative disease known as spinal muscular atrophy, commenced a constitutional challenge to the new MAID legislation in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The essence of the argument being advanced by the BCCLA and Ms. Lamb is that the federal legislation restricts MAID to only those Canadians whose illness, disease or disability is terminal and who are facing a “reasonably foreseeable” death. They allege that this is contrary to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, in which the Court found that MAID should be available to clearly consenting, competent adults with a grievous and irremediable illness, disease or disability that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

According to the BCCLA, Ms. Lamb could suffer intolerably for decades without dying from her illness, which at any point could progress to the point where she may experience constant severe pain and discomfort, require a ventilator for assistance with breathing, lose the ability to use her hands or arms, lose her ability to speak, and entirely lose her independence. The new federal legislation, they argue, takes away Ms. Lamb’s right to seek MAID and deprives her of the peace of mind she deserves to have in knowing that MAID is available to her if her medical condition eventually causes her enduring and intolerable suffering. The BCCLA and Ms. Lamb further argue that in addition to individuals like Ms. Lamb with spinal muscular atrophy, the legislation excludes many other individuals with medical conditions – such as multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, locked-in syndrome, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Huntingdon’s disease – who may be suffering intolerably with no immediate end in sight (source: NYC Law Firm).

The court document filed to initiate this constitutional challenge is available on the BCCLA’s website. We will follow this challenge with interest.

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