Plaintiff added to attack on assisted dying bill

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Another plaintiff has joined the constitutional challenge of Canada’s assisted dying bill. Robyn Moro joins Julia Lamb, who, along with the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), are fighting the assisted dying bill put out by the federal government in June 2016. The legislation is more restrictive than what Lamb and Moro were hoping for.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in Carter v Canada[1] that Canadians have a constitutional right to death. The Court struck down the prohibition on assisted dying because it violated s. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 of the Charter protects an individual’s right to life, liberty and security of the person. Carter held that assisted dying should be available to a competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life, and has a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition that causes them intolerable suffering.[2]

The federal government responded to the Supreme Court decision in Carter with their assisted dying bill. However, the new legislation added to the qualifications the Court had set out. The assisted dying bill requires that a person’s natural death be “reasonably foreseeable” in order to qualify for medical assisted suicide, in addition to the consent and grievous medical condition requirements. It is this addition that Ms. Lamb and now Ms. Moro are challenging in the BC Supreme Court. Ms. Moro suffers from Parkinson’s disease, which causes her acute physical pain, but her natural death is not reasonably foreseeable. Making matters worse for Ms. Moro is that she is allergic to many of the commonly prescribed pain medications for Parkinson’s disease.

The BCCLA is arguing that the legislation violates the Charter because it violates the rights and freedoms of individuals who may live for years but with intolerable suffering. The Carter decision had laid down that a person’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person were infringed because the prohibition on assisted dying forces some people to take their own lives. With the new legislation requiring a reasonably foreseeable death, Ms. Moro says she would undertake to take her own life if the challenge to the new legislation is not successful.

Counsel for the BCCLA said that Ms. Moro has strengthened the case by joining the challenge, adding urgency to the situation and highlighting the difficult position in which it puts individuals.

[1] 2015 SCC 5.

[2] Ibid at para 127.

This blog post was written by a CCLA summer student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.