A Chilliwack woman who spearheaded a nearly four-year fight to access medically assisted dying in Canada will be able to die in her own way when she requests it. Julia Lamb, who has spinal muscular atrophy, announced alongside the BC Civil Liberties Association on Wednesday that they have requested an adjournment in their legal battle against the federal government after an expert witness supplied by Canada’s counsel said that Lamb, 28, would be able to qualify for an assisted death.
“This is an enormous victory for our client and for the many Canadians like her who might find themselves suffering unbearably with no end in sight,” said Grace Pastine, civil liberties association litigation director, during a news conference in Vancouver.
Lamb’s plight to gain access to medically assisted dying (MaiD) first began in 2016, after the federal government Bill C14 legislation that only allowed assisted dying to be requested by those who were near death or suffering from a terminal illness. The legislation came despite a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, known as Carter v. Carter, which directed that medical assistance in dying should be available to consenting, competent adults with ‘grievous and irremediable’ medical conditions that are causing enduring suffering that they find intolerable.
Under Canada’s law, Lamb as well as others with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, traumatic spinal injury, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease would not be eligible for medical assistance in dying, the civil liberties association argued, therefore violating the charter by excluding people who could live for years with medical conditions that cause intolerable suffering.
Spinal muscular atrophy is a degenerative disease with no cure that Lamb has said will lead to years of unbearable suffering by robbing her of the use of her hands and forcing her to use a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat. “I feel like a shadow has been lifted now that I don’t have to live in fear of the future,” Lamb told a room full of reporters Wednesday.