A Calgary woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, will be the first Albertan to be granted a doctor-assisted death.
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta determined the woman, who is only identified as Mrs. S. due to a publication ban, has met qualifications, in a ruling made public Tuesday.
The woman is described as "severely disabled" and is in constant, significant pain. Court documents indicate she has, at most, six months left to live.
“I feel that my time has come to go in peace.”
"I am not suffering from anxiety or depression or fear of death. I would like to pass away peacefully and am hoping to have physician-assisted death soon. I do not wish to have continued suffering and to die of this illness by choking," Mrs. S. is quoted as having said in the ruling.
"I feel that my time has come to go in peace."
Mrs. S. spent decades working in Calgary's health care system and is a retired clinical psychologist. Before her diagnosis, she was an award-winning dancer, who enjoyed hiking and travel with her spouse.
Since her ALS diagnosis in April 2013, her disease has progressed rapidly to the point where she receives constant care and support and can no longer live independently.
Justice Sheilah Martin wrote in the ruling that Mrs. S.'s application was the first of its kind in Alberta.
Court heard Ms. S has explored the idea of physician-assisted death for two years.
Mrs. S. has plans to die with a doctor's help on a private property in Vancouver. Justice Martin said the ruling will apply across Canada.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled last winter that consenting adults with "a grievous and irremediable medical" conditions enduring "intolerable" suffering have the right to end their lives with a doctor's aid.
The Alberta government is currently seeking input from the public on doctor-assisted death through an online survey that will be available until March 31.
With files from The Canadian Press
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Here's a look at the state of Euthanasia laws in Canada and their history.
Suicide hasn't been a crime in Canada since 1972. (Shutterstock)
Doctor-assisted suicide is illegal, although the ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court will force Parliament to alter the law within one year. The Criminal Code of Canada states in section 241 that: "Every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years." (Alamy)
Passive euthanasia involves letting a patient die instead of prolonging life with medical measures. Passive euthanasia is legal in Canada. The decision is left in the hands of family or a designated proxy. Written wishes, including those found in living wills, do not have to be followed by family or a proxy. (Alamy)
Sue Rodriguez, who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease), launched a case asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow her to end her own life on the grounds that the current law discriminated against her disability. Because suicide is legal in Canada and Rodriguez was unable to end her life because of a lack of mobility, she argued it was discriminatory to prevent her from ending her own life with the aid of another. The court refused her request in 1993, but one year later she ended her life anyway with the help of an unnamed doctor. (CP)
Robert Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 death of his severely disabled daughter Tracy. A lack of oxygen during Tracy's birth led to cerebral palsy and serious mental and physical disabilities, including seizures and the inability to walk or talk. Her father ended Tracy's life by placing her in his truck and connecting a hose to the vehicle's exhaust.The case led to a heated debate over euthanasia in Canada and two Supreme Court challenges. Latimer was granted day parole in 2008 and full parole in 2010. (CP)
Former Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde tried repeatedly to get legislation legalizing euthanasia in Canada passed. Bill C-407 and Bill C-384 were both aimed at making assisted suicide legal. C-384 was defeated in the House 228 to 59, with many Bloc MPs and a handful of members from all other parties voting for the legislation. Tetraplegic Tory MP Steven Fletcher, pictured, made the following statement after C-384 was defeated: "I would like to be recorded as abstaining on this bill. The reason is I believe end of life issues need to be debated more in our country. I believe that life should be the first choice but not the only choice and that we have to ensure that resources and supports are provided to Canadians so that choice is free. I believe, when all is said and done, the individual is ultimately responsible. I want to make this decision for myself, and if I cannot, I want my family to make the decision. I believe most Canadians, or many Canadians, feel the same. As William Henley said in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."(CP)