British Columbia

B.C. woman seeking doctor-assisted death says life is 'intolerable'

A B.C. woman with multiple sclerosis has asked the B.C. Supreme Court for permission to seek a physician-assisted death.

Chief Justice says he wants more information on woman's prognosis

A B.C. woman, known as A.A., has asked a B.C. Supreme Court for permission to end her life. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

A woman with multiple sclerosis has asked the B.C. Supreme Court for permission to seek a physician-assisted death.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, has argued that her illness has progressed rapidly and the quality of her life is "intolerable."

The woman, identified as A.A., was not in court on Wednesday, but her lawyer, Sheila Tucker, outlined her client's reasons for wanting to die in a submission to Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson.

"My suffering is now unbearable to me," A.A. said through her lawyer.

Multiple sclerosis is a potentially debilitating disease that can cause problems with vision, balance and muscle control.

Tucker told the court that her client has tried various types of treatment, but doctors have told her there is nothing else they can do. A.A. has been treated for depression in the past, the court heard, and her spouse supports her decision.

Supreme Court struck old law

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a Canadian law that made it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives. The government has until June to craft new legislation that would allow doctors to assist with suicide in specific situations. 

In the meantime, those seeking a physician-assisted death can apply in court for an exemption.

Since last year's Supreme Court decision, individuals in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta have asked for — and been granted — exemptions to the law.

Hinkson delayed his decision, saying he wants more information on the woman's prognosis. 

Hinkson said he's also uncomfortable with granting unnamed people the power to help A.A. end her life. He asked for the names of physicians or pharmacists who might be involved in the doctor-assisted death.

The lawyer for A.A. says she will return with the documents requested next week.

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