Fast-track trial granted to woman in right-to-die case
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, August 3, 2011 8:28PM EDT
VANCOUVER - A woman who has lived far longer than her doctors had predicted plans to hang on until her right-to-die case is hurried through a B.C. court, her lawyer says.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith agreed to a speedy trial for Gloria Taylor, who wants a doctor-assisted suicide.
"I am satisfied the time is urgent," Smith told a crowd gathered in a Vancouver court for her decision Wednesday.
A four-week summary trial will be held beginning Nov. 15.
A lawyer for the federal government argued earlier in the hearing that such a fast trial should not be considered because the constitutional challenge is too complex to be prepared that quickly.
Taylor's lawyer, Joe Arvay, said the decision to fast track the trial means his client may now have the chance she wants to use a doctor to help her end her life.
Taylor, 63, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and Arvay told the court earlier in the week that her condition is getting worse.
"Gloria is an amazing woman. She has lived much longer than the doctors had predicted that she would," Arvay told reporters outside the court.
"She told me that she was going to hang on as long as it took in order for her to exercise her constitutional rights."
The court heard Taylor, a West Kelowna, B.C., resident, has difficulty walking and her doctor has told her she will soon need to have a feeding tube inserted.
She began experiencing the symptoms of ALS in 2003. Eighty per cent of people diagnosed with ALS die within two to five years of being diagnosed.
Taylor, a grandmother and a former residential care worker, founded a Kelowna support group for people living with ALS.
She was added to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association's challenge against the law forbidding doctor-assisted suicide in late June.
She said she wanted the court to allow her to work with her doctor to ease her pain and help her end her life peacefully.
"It doesn't make sense that it's legal for me to commit suicide, but it's illegal for someone to help me to die at peace," she said in a news release.
Taylor's case is one of two in front of Smith, with right-to-die advocates saying it is time to reconsider a 1993 Supreme Court of Canada decision denying Sue Rodriguez the right to take her own life.
Rodriguez also had ALS.
On Wednesday, lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada asked the judge to throw out the second challenge to the Criminal Code brought by the Farewell Foundation.
The government argues there is no identified person in the foundation's case or someone who claims harm from the law that forbids assisted suicide.
Foundation lawyer Jason Gratl told Smith that's because members of the foundation want to remain anonymous.
Instead the foundation has identified its representative plaintiffs as A, B, C and D.
Gratl argued the directors of the foundation have a personal interest because they could face a police investigation or even prosecution and therefore, they should be allowed to bring the suit as is.
Gratl said the foundation's member A, a person with HIV, has already committed suicide.
Outside the court, foundation director Russel Ogden said Vancouver police had questioned him about the person's death.
"The Farewell Foundation cannot counsel anybody to die and in fact the Farewell Foundation, under our protocols if they were implemented, would not counsel anyone to die," he said.
The two cases are currently separate, but Ogden said depending on the judge's decision, the right-to-die cases could be merged.