A B.C. Supreme Court judge in Vancouver has agreed to hear a case challenging Canada’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide earlier than originally scheduled because the condition of one of the plaintiffs, a West Kelowna woman who suffers from ALS, is deteriorating.
Gloria Taylor, who joined the B.C. Civil Liberties Association lawsuit as a plaintiff last month, told the Capital News in June that her illness, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is slowly taking her ability to chew, speak, swallow and breath.
“I’m dying piece by piece and I’m asking the court to let me die with dignity,” said Taylor.
Earlier this week, her lawyer Joe Arvay asked the judge presiding over the case to set a court date in November because of Taylor’s deteriorating condition. On Wednesday, Justice Lynne Smith agreed saying she was satisfied the urgency is warranted.
Federal lawyers had argued that because of the complexity of the issues before the court, November is too soon to hear the case. The four-week trial is now scheduled to start Nov. 15.
Taylor wants to end her life with the help of a doctor and said she feels strongly that terminally-ill Canadians should have that right.
In Canada, it is currently illegal to counsel, aid or help a person to commit suicide. Anyone convicted of such an offence could face a jail term of up to 14 years.
But Taylor has said it is cruel and inhumane to force her to face what she described as a “painful and prolonged death.”
There is currently no cure for ALS, an illness that gradually kills motor neurons in the body that control muscles. That leads to the failure of the systems that control the body leading, eventually, to paralysis and death.
Last month Taylor said she expected the court fight would be dragged out by the federal government but hoped it could be speeded up to allow her to end her life on her own terms.
She said if the challenge to the existing rules was not successful and she was still alive, she has a “plan B.” But she declined to say what that plan is.
In 2002, another terminally ill Kelowna woman went to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. It is legal in that country, as well as in the Netherlands, Belgium and the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Montana.
The Kelowna woman’s daughter is believed to be part of a second, similar lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the assisted suicide ban. That case was launched Monday by a group calling itself the Farewell Foundation.