We previously blogged about a London, Ontario man with a serious neurological disability who filed an unprecedented lawsuit against health officials claiming that instead of offering him assisted home care by a team of his choice, the only options presented were hospital discharge or medically assisted death. The man is seeking “assisted life” instead and would like to self-fund this option.

Request for Moratorium on Medically Assisted Deaths

Now, the man’s lawyer sent a letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould requesting an immediate moratorium on all medically assisted deaths until the governing legislation is changed to ensure that all necessary services to help patients are provided first.

The letter notes, in part:

Persons suffering with severe disabilities require necessary health care, assistance and compassion…[t]hese crucial services are not always provided at times of most need or in such a way that relieves suffering; instead, persons with disabilities are being assisted to their death rather than being assisted with life.

The man’s lawyer believes that his client is not the only person who has not been offered support to relieve their suffering, necessary services, or alternatives to medically assisted death. He calls on the government to provide all health services necessary “before persons are misled into premature and inappropriate death because of their belief that they are a burden to society with no alternative to death.”

He acknowledges that there are some cases in which even the best medical care in the world would not help a patient’s suffering, but argues that the government must do what it can to determine whether any other option would improve someone’s quality of life before medically assisted death is an option:

If everything fails, then there may be a few cases where it may well be constitutional to assist someone who is suffering with assisted death, but until you reach that stage you really need to provide all necessary services and assistance to help them with life first.

Charter Arguments

The man continues to stand behind his belief that Canada’s current assisted death legislation violates the fundamental Charter right of life, liberty and security of the person where medically assisted death is the only option offered or offered before other alternatives.

Responses to this Ongoing Matter

A spokesperson for the Minister told CTV News that the federal government’s current policy ensures safe and consistent access to medically assisted death for all Canadians, and that this is in accordance with all Charter rights:

Our government passed legislation that provides a national framework for medically assisted dying that protects our most vulnerable.

Trudo Lemmens, the Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy and the University of Toronto told CTV News that the man’s case must be taken seriously, noting:

We focus too much on stories of empowered people who want to use medically assisted death, often with the message that access should be easier…[w]e rarely hear stories about (often unconscious) pressure and inappropriately conducted MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying), but that doesn’t mean this doesn’t happen.

Lemmens says that governments and other regulators should, ideally, impose more specific procedures, greater oversight, and better legal guidance to ensure patients receive appropriate treatment and are not pressured into choosing medically assisted death.

As always with evolving health law matters, we will continue to follow developments in this matter as it unfolds and will provide updates to our readers as more information become available. In the interim, if you have questions about this case, MAID, or any other related issue, contact the knowledgeable health law lawyers at Wise Health Law.

We provide exceptional guidance on health law matters to regulated health professionalsregulated health professional associations, public hospitals, and other health-care organizations across the province. We monitor trends and developments in health so that we can provide consistently forward-thinking legal and risk management advice to our clients. We have offices in both Toronto and Oakville, Ontario, and are easily accessible. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.

Inquiries

At Wise Health Law, we restrict and focus our practice on our areas of expertise. We welcome referrals from other lawyers. We take seriously the responsibility to provide the highest standard of service on matters entrusted to us, and respect the relationship between the client and the referring lawyer.