By Taylor Hyatt – Policy Analyst, Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet
CBC News recently reported that Robyn Moro, one of two plaintiffs in a court case challenging the “reasonably foreseeable” death requirement of Canada’s euthanasia law, received a doctor’s assistance to die at the end of August.
Ms. Moro had Parkinson’s disease. She was allegedly allergic to many of the pain medications commonly used by people with her condition. Her request for euthanasia was originally denied in March because her doctor did not believe her death was “reasonably foreseeable.”
According to the CBC report, Ms. Moro’s doctor (Ellen Wiebe) refused to grant euthanasia requests from patients who were believed to have more than five years to live, based on statistical projections of the life expectancy of the named plaintiff in the Carter case.
However, Dr. Wiebe changed her mind following an Ontario Superior Court ruling in June of this year in the case of AB v. Attorney General of Canada. In that decision, Judge Paul Perell stated that the “reasonably foreseeable” death standard does not require a person’s illness to be terminal. Nor does their death need to be imminent or likely to occur within a given period of time.
According to CBC, Dr. Wiebe calculated that AB, the subject of the Ontario Court ruling, might have lived another 10 years. This became her new limit. Since she believed Ms. Moro could not survive that long, Wiebe felt Moro was now eligible for euthanasia.
In the AB case, Judge Perell also said “reasonably foreseeable” death applies to a person “who is on a trajectory toward death because he or she:
(a) has a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability; (b) is in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and (c) is enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.” This could be interpreted to mean that if you satisfy criteria (a) through (c), then your death is reasonably foreseeable.
Even though Ms. Moro has passed away, she will remain a part of the case, assuming the court allows her husband to stand in for her, or relies on Moro’s written statements.
The other plaintiff is Julia Lamb, a woman with spinal muscular atrophy living in British Columbia. Although her condition is progressive, it is not terminal.
Ms. Lamb is currently able to work part time and live independently with attendant services. However, she is afraid that a sudden decline in her condition will prevent her from breathing and eating independently and using her hands.
There are many reasons to oppose the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Here are just a few.
It’s Unnecessary – Everyone has the option to commit suicide or to refuse medical care and have palliative sedation on demand.
It’s Discriminatory – While people without disabilities receive suicide prevention services if they express a wish to die, people with disabilities will be encouraged and assisted to kill themselves.
Choice is an illusion – The choice to die cannot be free as long as people with disabilities don’t have the choice in where and how to live.
Safeguards don’t work – Where these practices are legal, safeguards do not prevent people from disabilities from being wrongly killed.
To view the Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet videos, use this link.
Editor’s note. This appeared on the blog of Alex Schadenberg and is reposted with permission.