Autistic Calgary woman starving herself after delays to 'assisted suicide' application

'Her death is now imminent, and the question is whether she will pass away from VSED or have access to MAiD,' said the woman’s lawyer Austin Paladeau. The woman, identified only as M.V., has not been eating or drinking since May 28.

Autistic Calgary woman starving herself after delays to 'assisted suicide' application
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An autistic Calgary woman seeking Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) is now starving herself and her counsel is demanding the overturn of a court injunction blocking her application.

“Her death is now imminent, and the question is whether she will pass away from VSED or have access to MAiD,” said the woman’s lawyer Austin Paladeau.

The woman, identified only as M.V., has not been eating or drinking since May 28.

In an application filed Tuesday at the Alberta Court of Appeal, M.V. is seeking to overturn a consented April 8 stay of a lower court ruling pending appeal by her father’s counsel.

Her father is only identified as W.V. as the case is under a publication ban.

Although a Court of King's Bench judge ultimately sided with his daughter, a judicial stay of that decision is in place so that W.V. can appeal.

“The consent order was entered into on the basis of the appeal of Justice [Colin] Feasby’s decision setting aside the injunction preventing any person providing M.V. with medical assistance in dying would be resolved following the [appeal] hearing,” reads Paladeau’s application.

W.V. earlier received a temporary injunction to block his daughter from ending her life through MAID. It delayed her procedure from February 1 to October 7.

Justice Feasby acknowledged the injunction was causing her irreparable harm. “An injunction would put M.V. in a position where she would be forced to choose between living a life, she has decided is intolerable and ending her life with medical assistance,” he writes.

“This is a terrible choice and should not be forced on M.V., as attempting to end her life without medical assistance would put her at increased risk of pain, suffering and lasting injury.”

In an affidavit filed in support of Tuesday’s application, M.V. says she “would greatly prefer to receive MAID to reduce [her] suffering.”

“The material change in circumstance is that M.V. has commenced voluntary stoppage of eating and drinking,” it says. “This has shifted the balance of harm analysis.”

“It is no longer a question of whether M.V. will be able to end her life by accessing MAiD; it is now a question of whether M.V. will die a drawn-out death by VSED or a painless death by MAiD,” says Paladeau.

“Even if M.V. concedes every other issue on appeal… the immediate, intolerable suffering of VSED means that the stay should be lifted.”

M.V.’s only publicly known diagnoses are autism and ADHD. It is not known what conditions she suffers from that led to her approval for MAID.

Two doctors approved her application. However, her father argued she is vulnerable and “is not competent to make the decision to take her own life.”

W.V. maintains she does not qualify for assisted suicide, but an earlier decision notes these diagnoses alone do not prove M.V. lacks the capacity to choose MAID.

Her father alleged she suffers from undiagnosed mental psychological conditions, but those claims remain unsupported.

“Unfortunately this is not a situation where the question is ‘Will this occur?’ it’s ‘How will this occur?’” said M.V.’s lawyer Evan Jovanovic.

On Wednesday, Court of Appeal Justice Jolaine Antonio requested both parties consider an expedited appeal to be heard by a panel of judges later this month.

“Our office would certainly move heaven and earth to be able to get this heard as quickly as possible,” said Jovanovic. 

“However, we cannot give any guarantees as to what our client's position would be… the decision would ultimately be hers as to how she would react to that and to what steps she would take.”

W.V.'s lawyer Sarah Miller expressed frustration with the proceedings.

“The only current change to her suffering is self-inflicted and there's nothing that this court can do to stop her from choosing a modality of suicide independent of MAID,” said Miller. 

“If she so chooses to commit suicide, that is her prerogative, but it is not for the court to get involved to assist her in that or to rubber stamp that process.”

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