Update: The appeal was adjourned for two weeks at the request of the federal government. One of its lawyers is ill.
The federal government’s appeal of a landmark B.C. Supreme Court ruling, one that gave a West Kelowna woman suffering from ALS the legal right to an assisted suicide, was scheduled to start Monday in Vancouver.
But the court proceedings were expected to be quick because the government was planned to request a last-minute adjournment after one of its lawyers fell ill.
The June, 2012 court ruling, which said banning doctor-assisted suicide in Canada is unconstitutional, was suspended for one year to give the federal government time to draft new legislation.
But it also gave West Kelowna’s Gloria Taylor, one of the plaintiffs in the ban challenge, a special and immediate exemption so she could seek a physician-assisted suicide during the period the ruling was suspended.
Taylor, 64, suffered from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. She died of complications from the disease in October and in the end did not need to use the services of a doctor.
But her family says it will fight the government’s bid to overturn the ruling because Taylor believed passionately that a terminally-ill person should have the right to decide how and when he or she will die, not the government.
“Gloria firmly believed, and so do I, that people who are seriously ill and incurably ill should be able to make the choice about how much suffering to endure based on their own beliefs and values,” said Taylor’s 85-year-old mother Anne Fomenoff on the weekend.
“These deeply personal decisions should be made by the individuals who are suffering and not by the government.”
Fomenoff, a long-time hospice worker, said she has seen for herself the “hard suffering” of the dying.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which represents Taylor in the court challenge, is opposed to delaying the appeal, saying the issue affects Canadians across the country and a decision should not be delayed.
Meanwhile, Fomenoff and one of her other daughters said they would be in court in Vancouver Monday to continue the fight in Taylor’s name.
Fomenoff said her daughter died with dignity, free from fear because of the court’s earlier ruling. Other terminally-ill Canadians deserved the same treatment, she added.
She called it “cruel” of the government to try and take that decision away from people who are suffering from terminal illnesses and want to end their lives, like her daughter did, with dignity.
“To the day (Gloria) died, she believed in the right to die,” said Fomenoff. “And so do we.”