Canadian judge rules 27-year-old autistic woman can be euthanized to prevent “irreparable harm” to her

On March 14, I reported on the story of a 27-year-old Albertan woman with autism who had been approved for euthanasia in December; she was planning to receive a lethal injection on February 1 when her father, whom she lives with, successfully obtained a temporary court injunction the day prior. Her father argued that her autism and “possibly other undiagnosed maladies do not satisfy the eligibility criteria for MAiD [Medical Assistance in Dying]”; the daughter’s attorney argued that it was “none of [her father’s] business.”  

It fell to Court of King’s Bench Justice Colin Feasby to examine the approval process and to determine whether the young woman was eligible for suicide-by-doctor. He admitted to being troubled by the case. “As a court, I can’t go second guessing these MAiD assessors… but I’m stuck with this: the only comprehensive assessment of this person done says she’s normal,” Feasby stated. “That’s really hard.” It shouldn’t have been. 

The desperate father has received another brutal setback in his quest to save his daughter from Canada’s euthanasia regime. On March 25, Feasby ruled that the injunction preventing her death be lifted. As the Calgary Herald put it: “Preventing a Calgary woman’s medically assisted death would cause her irreparable harm, a judge ruled Monday.” Reread that sentence a moment and let it sink in: preventing a woman’s death would cause her irreparable harm. In Canada’s euthanasia regime, words mean nothing. Suicide is healthcare. Stopping suicide causes irreparable harm. Death… doesn’t, somehow. 

“The harm to MV [the woman in question] if the injunction is granted goes to the core of her being,” Feasby stated in his written ruling. “An injunction would deny MV the right to choose between living or dying with dignity. Further, an injunction would put MV in a position where she would be forced to choose between living a life she has decided is intolerable and ending her life without medical assistance. This is a terrible choice that should not be forced on MV, as attempting to end her life without medical assistance would put her at increased risk of pain, suffering, and lasting injury.” 

Note here that there is no limiting principle to this ruling. That logic, such as it is, would apply to any suffering person experiencing suicidal ideation. It is also a false choice. The choice is not between dying by lethal injection or dying by some other form of suicide; it is between dying by lethal injection or being cared for by her loving father, who is ready and willing to do whatever he can for her. As Feasby himself said in his previous comments on the case: “The only comprehensive assessment of this person done says she’s normal.” Apparently, that didn’t matter. 

Addressing the young woman in his ruling, Feasby added: 

What I know of your journey through the health-care system from the evidence in this case suggests that you have struggled to find a doctor who could diagnose your condition and offer appropriate treatment. I do not know why you seek MAiD. Your reasons remain your own because I have respected your autonomy and your privacy. My decision recognizes your right to choose medically assisted death; but it does not require you to choose death. 

Feasby did admit that his ruling would be deeply harmful to the parents of the young woman. “The harm to WV [the father] if the injunction is not granted will be substantial,” he wrote. “The pain of losing a child, even an adult child, is not something that any parent should experience. (The parents) have devoted their lives to raising MV from birth and have continued to support her since she has come of age. They will understandably be devastated by her death. For many parents, the loss of a child is a life-changing event that they never truly recover from. The loss is immeasurable.” 

He is right. He could have made a different decision. The 27-year-old had to shop around for doctors willing to sign off on her application for euthanasia; she initially struggled to find the necessary two. But in the end, she succeeded. The father can appeal Feasby’s decision, but his attorney has not commented on whether he will do so. If he does not, he will face what so many Canadian families have endured over the past several years: the knowledge that his family member will expedite her death, and that he is helpless to stop it. 

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