Julia Lamb, who has a degenerative muscle disease, pauses following a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, June, 27, 2016. Lamb is challenging Canada’s physician-assisted dying law just days after it came into force. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

A Chilliwack woman who spearheaded a nearly four-year fight to access medically assisted dying in Canada will be able to die in her own way when she requests it.

Julia Lamb, who has spinal muscular atrophy, announced alongside the BC Civil Liberties Association on Wednesday that thy have requested an adjournment in their legal battle against the federal government after an expert witness supplied by Canada’s counsel said that Lamb, 28, would be able to qualify for an assisted death.

“This is an enormous victory for our client and for the many Canadians like her who might find themselves suffering unbearably with no end in sight,” said Grace Pastine, civil liberties association litigation director, during a news conference in Vancouver.

Lamb’s plight to gain access to medically assisted dying – or MaiD – first began in 2016, after the federal government Bill C14 – legislation that only allowed assisted dying to be requested by those who were near death or suffering from a terminal illness.

ALSO READ: Death is a medical choice, but not for everyone

The legislation came despite a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, known as Carter v. Canada, which 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.

Under Canada’s law, Lamb as well as others with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease would not be eligible for medical assistance in dying, the civil liberties association argued, therefore violating the charter by excluding people who could live for years with medical conditions that cause intolerable suffering.

READ MORE: Supreme Court upholds Canada’s right to reargue facts in assisted-dying case

Spinal muscular atrophy is a degenerative disease with no cure that Lamb has said will lead to years of unbearable suffering by robbing her of the use of her hands and forcing her to use a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat.

“I feel like a shadow has been lifted now that I don’t have to live in fear of the future,” Lamb told a room full of reporters Wednesday.

She added that she’s relieved others won’t feel trapped in intolerable suffering and instead of “fearing their future, it can bring them choice, agency and peace.”

“Where I go, my spinal muscular atrophy comes too. It is something that I have lived with since birth and was diagnosed with at 16 months. The genetic, degenerative disease affects every aspect of my life,” she continued.

“It is because of my ambitions, my wanting to forge ahead that I couldn’t deny my future. What will happen when my disease, my symptoms, and my body trap me in this progressive suffering? The importance of my personal freedoms and values allow me to live my joy.”

Lamb was one of two plaintiffs in the case. Robyn Moro, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease was initially denied medical help in dying because her natural death was considered reasonably foreseeable. She died at the age of 68 in 2018.

Outside of the legal case, doctors across B.C. have worked to interpret Bill C14’s reasonably foreseeable future clause, which requires physicians can ensure, without a doubt, that the death of a patient is probable.

Slightly more than 2,600 people died with medical assistance in 2018, with 773 of those in B.C. – the highest number of such deaths compared to any other province.

Roughly 65 per cent are by those suffering from a kind of cancer. Sixteen per cent stemmed from a circulatory or respiratory system disease.

The civil liberties association said that while the case has ended in a win that will bring clarity to doctors across the country, they won’t hesitate to continue the lawsuit if a Canadian is improperly denied their right to MaiD.

“Now, agency, compassion and choice can be given to those of us who were left out,” Lamb said.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Rosslanders happy with waste collection, but changes possible, says report

Homeowners happy with bi-weekly service, if City starts organic waste collection

Rossland French immersions school to offer high school courses

Expansion decision means students can continue in French to Grade 9

Rossland Council updated on cost of fixing arena

It will cost $700,000+ to get job done

Kootenay cold snap ups energy consumption as high as 75 per cent

On Jan. 14, natural gas use rose 50 per cent compared to the previous Tuesday

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Jagmeet Singh says NDP caucus will discuss whether to support new NAFTA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said steps to ratify the new NAFTA are top of mind

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

University of Victoria tells stories of Holocaust survivors with graphic novels

International storytelling initiative launched first meetings this winter

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Most Read