British Columbia

B.C. judge rejects bid for speedy trial in challenge to assisted dying law

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has rejected a bid for a speedier trial in a constitutional challenge to the country’s assisted dying law.

Julia Lamb of Chilliwack argues her right to assisted dying unfairly limited by current law

Julia Lamb has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disease she fears will worsen to the point she will be forced to endure intolerable suffering. (B.C. Civil Liberties Association)

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has rejected a bid for a speedier trial in a constitutional challenge to the country's assisted dying law.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association had asked the court to prevent the federal government from reintroducing evidence on issues that had already been decided in Carter v. Canada, the case that led to the legalization of assisted dying in Canada.

Lawyers with the BCCLA told reporters outside court that while the decision is unfortunate, they still expect the challenge to be successful.

"The downside of this decision is that the trial of our case may take longer. And that means that more people will spend more time trapped in intolerable suffering under a law that unjustly restricts access to medically assisted death," the BCCLA's acting director of litigation, Caily DiPuma, said in a news release.

"We succeeded in defeating the government's arguments in the Carter case and we will succeed in defeating them the second time around."

The BCCLA's challenge was filed on behalf of Julia Lamb of Chilliwack, a young woman with spinal muscular atrophy who has been in a wheelchair since age six and worries the deterioration of her body could cause unbearable physical and mental suffering for years.

Canada's assisted dying law currently only allows the service for patients with terminal illnesses. But someone who suffers from a chronic, debilitating and painful condition cannot seek a doctor's help in dying if death is not "reasonably foreseeable".

The federal government's legislation on the issue had been approved just a few days before the BCCLA's challenge was filed.

Robyn Moro, a 68-year-old Delta woman suffering from Parkinson's disease, added her name to the case earlier this year. She ended her life in September with the help of Dr. Ellen Wiebe, but her case will continue to be included in the challenge.