Right-to-die lawsuit fast-tracked by B.C. judge

A B.C. Supreme Court judge agrees to fast-track the lawsuit of a dying woman pleading for help to end her life before she gets even sicker.
The court challenge of Canada's assisted-suicide laws by a Kelowna, B.C., woman with ALS is being fast-tracked, the CBC's Meera Bains reports 1:49

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has agreed to fast-track the lawsuit of a dying woman pleading for help to end her life before she gets even sicker.

Judge Lynn Smith ruled Wednesday that Gloria Taylor could  fast-track a lawsuit to gain the right to a doctor-assisted suicide.

The Kelowna resident, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is part of one of two challenges in B.C. to the laws against assisted suicide.

The last challenge was 18 years ago, when B.C. woman Sue Rodriguez narrowly lost her bid to end her suffering from the same disease.

Joe Arvay — lead counsel for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which is representing Taylor and four other people seeking to take their own lives with help from a doctor — said Taylor's case picks up where the Rodriguez case left off.

"She's critical because, I mean, she brings a most compelling human face to this case," Arvay said.

"[She's picking up] the torch that Sue Rodriguez left behind, and the court needs to hear her evidence and to hear why it is that she wants assistance in her death."

A lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada had argued a case so complex can't be rushed.

Smith will hear the case in a four-week trial starting Nov. 15.

Second assisted suicide lawsuit also underway

Arguments also continue Wednesday in a second case seeking to have the courts recognize assisted suicide, though not necessarily by a doctor, spearheaded by the Farewell Foundation. The group represents many people wanting the right to end their lives because of pain.

The foundation wants the court to throw out the law that forbids assisted suicide, saying people with terminal illnesses should be able to end their lives in a safe and humane way.

The foundation argues three U.S. states and four European countries allow assisted suicide, and Canada should follow suit.

Foundation member Jim Preece said the group can model best practices based on successful assisted suicide plans used elsewhere.

"It must be done in a facility that is safe and secure," Preece said. "Using the word we've used before — 'de-medicalized.'"

Both cases are to continue in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

With files from The Canadian Press