The B.C. Civil Liberties Association will appeal a high court ruling that upholds Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide — and is urging that the wheels of justice should turn quickly.
The legal rights group says the outcome of the appeal is of extreme urgency to gravely ill Canadians, such as multiple sclerosis patient Elayne Shapray.
Shapray has filed an affidavit as the association seeks to expedite the hearing process at the Supreme Court of Canada.
The 67-year-old grandmother wants the right to have a physician-assisted death before she becomes too horribly trapped in her own body.
"I can no longer turn over or even move in bed — or find comfort in any position for any period of time," says Shapray.
"My choices for bringing about my death unassisted are self-starvation, over-medication or some violent self-inflicted injury."
The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled earlier this month that the 1993 decision in the Sue Rodriguez case is binding — physicians cannot intervene to help patients end their lives — and the court does not have the authority to overturn that law.
Since the ruling, former Supreme Court of Canada justice Jack Major, who was on the bench for the Rodriguez decision, has added his voice to those calling on the federal government to modernize the law on assisted suicide.
Major sided with a narrow majority of judges, 5-4, in the decision on the case brought by a B.C. woman who was diagnosed with the terminal disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 1991.
Speaking Tuesday, BCCLA lawyer Grace Pastine said she thinks the current ban is woefully out of date, and that Canada needs to change with the times, as other jurisdictions have.
"These are not abstract legal issues," said Pastine, sitting beside Shapray at a Vancouver news conference.
"This is a case about real people with serious illnesses, who through a change in the law can find some measure of peace and comfort at the end of life in knowing that they have a choice."