A Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judge has denied a request to shelve a lower court decision that effectively allows a man to go ahead with a medically assisted death, in spite of his wife’s efforts to stop him.
The 83-year-old man from Bridgewater, N.S., was assessed by physicians and approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID) earlier this year, but his wife, Katherine, 82, filed for an injunction with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, forcing him to cancel his plans.
CBC News is identifying the couple only by the woman’s first name to protect their privacy and his ability to access health care. Katherine has threatened to sue health-care providers who help her husband access a medically assisted death.
There is no formal publication ban in the case, but the judges who have ruled on it have all agreed to protect the couple’s identities by referring to him as X and Katherine as Y.
While X says he’s suffering and near the end of his life because of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), his wife says his wish to die is not based on physical illness, but anxiety and mental delusions. She has also expressed a moral opposition to MAID.
The couple have known each other for more than 60 years and have been married for 48. After Katherine launched her legal efforts to stop her husband from accessing MAID, her husband moved out of their shared home and the couple stopped speaking.
Last week, a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judge heard both sides’ arguments about whether to set aside an earlier decision from Nova Scotia Supreme Court dismissing her injunction request.
In a written decision released Friday afternoon, Justice Elizabeth Van den Eynden denied Katherine’s motion to stay the supreme court ruling. In doing so, she cleared the legal barriers that had been preventing X from accessing a medically assisted death.
The case could still go to a formal appeal hearing and is scheduled to do so on Sept. 24.
Katherine’s lawyers noted last week that, should her husband go ahead with the MAID procedure before then, it would render the appeal moot. This was one of their arguments for an extension of the interim injunction.
Van den Eynden acknowledged in her decision that X could proceed with MAID before an appeal but, like the supreme court judge who ruled on the case before her, she found that on balance, the man would suffer more if his wife’s request was granted than if it were not.
She added that the case did not have any exceptional circumstances that would warrant a stay.
“The Supreme Court of Canada decided that medical assistance in dying is a constitutionally-protected right. Parliament debated and passed the MAiD scheme into Canadian law. It seems Mrs. Y wants to relitigate issues that have been considered and decided by both the SCC and Parliament,” Van den Eynden wrote.
Surely, this makes a normal person’s skin crawl, does it not?
People can fundamentally grasp the idea that sometimes when you’re old and in pain, you just want to die. That’s okay, as a concept, in a vacuum.
What isn’t okay is to give this kind of power over to the state.