Since mid-April, Bill C-14 has brought forth considerable debate across the country due to its prohibitive eligibility criteria.
In May of this year, the federal government revealed its legislative reply to last year’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down the existing ban on physician-assisted death.
Bill C-14 is geared toward amending the Criminal Code to create exemptions from offences of culpable homicide and to allow medical and nurse practitioners to provide medical assistance in dying.
For the past nine years, an Alberta woman has been suffering from a severe conversion disorder. This means her body responds to emotional trauma through physical symptoms, but with no clear organic or neurologic cause. The illness causes painful involuntary muscle spasms and constant severe migraines. The 58-year-old woman is now blind as a result of her eyelids having spasmed shut due to her illness.
The women, referred to as E.F., also has trouble digesting food and has to be pushed around in a wheelchair due to the deterioration of her muscles throughout the course of her illness. E.F. has tried several treatments and has visited with several psychiatrists but has not found any relief of her symptoms.
This week, the Alberta Court of Appeal announced its decision concerning E.F.’s “right to die” application, making it the first time a lower court decision in Canada has been appealed on a case concerning medical-assisted death.
While E.F. isn’t suffering from a terminal illness, she says that her quality of life is “non-existent.” On May 5, a Red Deer judge granted her request for a physician-assisted death.
The Attorney General of Canada opposed the request for assisted death because E.F.’s illness is not terminal and stems from psychiatric issues. Bill C-14 explicitly states that those seeking medical-assisted death must suffer from a terminal illness where death is “reasonably foreseeable.” Although it does not state that those suffering from psychiatric illness are excluded, the Attorney General’s arguments propose that such an exclusion could be grounds for the requirement that the condition be terminal.
In a unanimous decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal disagreed with the Attorney General’s proposals. According to the Alberta Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court did not state that an applicant of physician-assisted death must suffer from a terminal illness.
Because of the nature of E.F.’s illness, the federal government has argued that she should not be allowed to die. Since doctors can find no physical cause for her symptoms, the fact that her symptoms originated from the psyche are enough to have Trudeau’s government oppose her request.
After almost a decade of pain and suffering with no viable treatment in sight, E.F. is fighting for the right to end her life with dignity and has been denied due to the psychiatric nature of her disorder.