It took just 10 days from the time the bill was passed in Parliament for the first challenge to the government's assisted-death legislation to be filed in court, and it's a doozy.
Julia Lamb of Chilliwack, B.C., is 25 and suffers from a degenerative muscle disease that could one day trap her in endless pain and extinguish her remaining independence. She fears that Bill C-14, which sets the rules for physician-assisted death, has robbed her of her right to a timely assisted death by restricting that right to those whose "natural death has become reasonably foreseeable."
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould insists the law is constitutional. It is a big gamble, and Ms. Lamb has called her on it.
The issue is simple. The Supreme Court ruled in Carter v. Canada that the option of assisted death must be available to "a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual."
The ruling was based on the cases of two elderly women and made no reference to the requirement to be reasonably close to death. The government added that condition in order to protect people not at the end of their lives from making rash decisions, and to safeguard the vulnerable.
Will the law withstand Ms. Lamb's challenge? Wheelchair-bound and in need of constant care, she fears she will eventually lose the use of her hands and require a permanent tracheotomy in order to breathe. She dreads being trapped in her pain-wracked body, eating through a tube, with no means of communicating.
The courts may find that her natural death is indeed reasonably foreseeable as defined by Bill C-14 if a tracheotomy becomes necessary. Patients with irremediable conditions like hers (she has spinal muscular atrophy) do not have to accept treatment. If she were to refuse a tracheotomy, her death would be foreseeable. There is a chance the law covers her particular situation, and that she is eligible for assisted death.
If the courts find otherwise, however, then Ms. Wilson-Raybould must admit defeat. We are long past the point where someone should suffer because of inadequate right-to-die legislation.