British Columbia

Assisted suicide granted by B.C. Supreme Court judge

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted a woman with multiple sclerosis the right to end her own life with the help of a physician.

Unnamed woman with multiple sclerosis is 4th Canadian to receive judicial sanction for euthanasia

Physician-assisted death is currently only accessible through a court exemption. (CBC)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted a woman with multiple sclerosis the right to take her own life with the assistance of a physician.

A.A. is the fourth Canadian sanctioned by a superior court for doctor-assisted dying since the Supreme Court of Canada told Parliament to come up with legislation to deal with assisted suicide.

'Permanent and irreversible'

The country's highest court struck down the law governing physician-assisted suicide in 2015, but the ruling is suspended until this summer, when Ottawa is expected to introduce new rules.

In the meantime, individuals who want to end their own lives with the help of a doctor have to meet a four-part test to determine if they can receive an exemption from prosecution.

In making his decision, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson had to decide the following: if A.A. was of competent mind; if she consented to the termination of life; if she has a "grievous and irremediable medical condition"; and if the medical condition causes "enduring suffering that is intolerable" and can't be alleviated.

"I am satisfied that the petitioner has carefully and thoughtfully come to her decision to seek a physician-assisted death and that she fully and freely consents to the termination of her life," Hinkson wrote.

"Her condition is a grievous and irremediable medical condition in that it greatly interferes with the quality of her life, it is at a critical stage and is permanent and irreversible."

'Enduring and intolerable pain'

In addition to her own evidence, A.A.'s application included evidence from her spouse.

"She is suffering from enduring and intolerable pain," Hinkson wrote.

"Her husband attested that he has watched her suffer through enormous pain and that the quality of life has consistently deteriorated."

Because of the sensitive nature of the proceedings, Hinkson granted anonymity to everyone involved except for Dr. Ellen Wiebe, the Vancouver family practitioner who has agreed to help A.A. end her life.

In addition to authorizing Wiebe to provide A.A. with a physician-assisted death by lethal injection, Hinkson has also authorized either of two registered nurses who swore affidavits to help.

He has also authorized two registered pharmacists to dispense the drugs needed for the procedure.