Sec­ond plain­tiff added to court chal­lenge of re­stric­tive as­sisted dy­ing law

Cape Breton Post - - News - BY JOAN BRYDEN

A con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to the Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s law on as­sisted dy­ing has been bol­stered with the ad­di­tion of a sec­ond plain­tiff: a B.C. woman who suf­fers un­bear­able pain from a de­bil­i­tat­ing, in­cur­able dis­ease but can’t get med­i­cal help to end her life be­cause her death is not im­mi­nent.

Robyn Moro, a 68-year-old re­tired re­tail busi­ness owner, joins Ju­lia Lamb in chal­leng­ing the year-old law, which al­lows med­i­cally as­sisted dy­ing only for in­di­vid­u­als whose nat­u­ral death is “rea­son­ably fore­see­able.”

“What’s the point of wait­ing un­til some­body’s al­most dead be­fore you do any­thing about it?” Moro said in an in­ter­view.

“You might as well not have the law.”

Moro suf­fers from Parkin­son’s dis­ease, a de­gen­er­a­tive dis­or­der of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem. It has caused con­tin­ual ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain in her legs, acute nau­sea that has re­sulted in re­peated hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and tremors that shake her whole body.

Her con­di­tion is ex­ac­er­bated by the fact that she’s al­ler­gic to many of the med­i­ca­tions nor­mally pre­scribed for the dis­ease and for pain re­lief.

“I can’t imag­ine hav­ing any more pain than I have now and yet Parkin­son’s is a pro­gres­sive dis­ease,” Moro said.

“It pro­gresses and mine pro­gresses pretty quickly and so, yes, it’s ter­ri­fy­ing to think that it will get worse and all I can take is a reg­u­lar strength Tylenol.”

Moro meets all the other eli­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for an as­sisted death set out in the law: she is a con­sent­ing adult “in an ad­vanced stage of ir­re­versible de­cline” from a se­ri­ous and in­cur­able dis­ease. But she’s been de­nied her re­quest for med­i­cal as­sis­tance in dy­ing be­cause she is not near death.

If the le­gal chal­lenge fails or takes years to wend its way through the courts, Moro in­tends to end her life by re­fus­ing food and wa­ter — an ag­o­niz­ing end that can take up to two weeks be­fore a per­son dies from de­hy­dra­tion.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “If that’s the only way of end­ing my suf­fer­ing then that’s what I’ll do.”

And if she’s forced to take that “ter­ri­fy­ing” way out, she’d like to invite Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould, who crafted the as­sisted dy­ing law, to wit­ness her death.

“I think they should see the re­sult of what they’ve done. It’s fine to cre­ate a law and then walk away from it and not think about it too much,” Moro said. “But if they had to see peo­ple ac­tu­ally hav­ing to do them­selves in, maybe it would shake them up a lit­tle bit.”

The law was en­acted last June in re­sponse to a land­mark 2015 rul­ing by the Supreme Court of Canada, which struck down the pro­hi­bi­tion on as­sisted dy­ing as a vi­o­la­tion of an in­di­vid­ual’s right to life, lib­erty and se­cu­rity of the per­son.

How­ever, the law is much more re­stric­tive than what the top court en­vis­aged. The court directed that med­i­cal as­sis­tance in dy­ing should be avail­able to con­sent­ing, com­pe­tent adults with “griev­ous and ir­re­me­di­a­ble” med­i­cal con­di­tions that are caus­ing en­dur­ing suf­fer­ing that they find in­tol­er­a­ble.

There was no re­quire­ment that the con­di­tion be ter­mi­nal or that a per­son be near death. In­deed, the court rul­ing specif­i­cally ad­dressed in­di­vid­u­als like Moro, who “may be con­demned to a life of se­vere and in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing.”

“A per­son fac­ing this prospect has two op­tions: she can take her own life pre­ma­turely, of­ten by vi­o­lent or dan­ger­ous means, or she can suf­fer un­til she dies from nat­u­ral causes. The choice is cruel,” the Supreme Court said.

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