For immediate release – Tuesday, May 23, 2017
(Le français suit)
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Today, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed documents to add a new plaintiff, Robyn Moro, to its legal challenge to Canada’s assisted dying legislation.
Robyn is a 68 year old woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Robyn seeks immediate access to a medically assisted death due to her intolerable and unalleviated suffering.
In 2015 the BCCLA won a landmark decision in Carter v. Canada, 2015 SCC 5, when the Supreme Court of Canada held that medical assistance in dying should be available to clearly consenting and competent adults who have a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition that causes them enduring and intolerable suffering.
The federal government responded to the Carter decision by adding a further requirement: a person’s natural death must be reasonably foreseeable before they can access medical assistance in dying.
Ten days after the government’s new legislation came into force, the BCCLA launched the Lamb v. Canada case, challenging the constitutionality of the “reasonably foreseeable death” requirement. Caily DiPuma, the BCCLA’s Acting Litigation Director, says the BCCLA’s legal challenge was motivated by the critically ill Canadians abandoned by the new law: “This law deliberately leaves many Canadians trapped in intolerable suffering. As Canada’s highest Court has already ruled, people suffering from a serious, irremediable illness should not be forced to wait to seek a compassionate death. It is clearly unconstitutional.”
Robyn is one of the Canadians left out by the current legislation. Robyn was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just months after her retirement. Her dreams of an active retirement spent travelling the world with her husband of fifty years quickly became impossible. Now, most of Robyn’s days are spent in severe pain. Her body shakes constantly with tremors. She has chronic nausea and vomiting, muscle freezing, and exhaustion.
Robyn states she can no longer tolerate her existence: “I have so much pain every day, and I know my Parkinson’s will only continue to get worse. I know what my future holds and I don’t want do endure it. I want to be able to die peacefully, with my family by my side. Although we love each other dearly, my husband and family don’t want to see me suffer anymore. They support my choice. It’s the law that is forcing me to suffer.”
Prior to her diagnosis Robyn was an independent, active grandmother. She enjoyed spending time with her four grandchildren. She loved the outdoors, boating and camping. She and her husband would often host friends and family in their home. She no longer has the energy for these activities, relying on her husband for help with nearly every aspect of life.
Jay Aubrey, counsel for the BCCLA, worries that the current legislation places critically ill Canadians in an impossible position: “People who experience horrific, irremediable suffering, but whose death is not yet reasonably foreseeable, are left with two choices — to continue to suffer intolerably against their will, or to turn to non-medical ways of ending their life, such as starvation and dehydration. This is a cruel choice. Surely we have more compassion than to leave people to suffer and die in this way.”
Robyn has asked that she not be contacted directly. Please contact the BCCLA with any inquiries.
The BCCLA has launched a crowdfunding effort in order to help pay for this legal challenge: www.gofundme.com/deathwithdignity
The BCCLA is represented by Joseph Arvay, Q.C. of Farris, Vaughn, Wills & Murphy LLP, Sheila Tucker, Q.C. of Shapray Cramer Fitterman Lamer LLP, and Alison Latimer of Underhill, Boies Parker, Gage & Latimer LLP.
What: Plaintiff added in Lamb v. Canada
When: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Where: British Columbia Supreme Court (Vancouver, BC)