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Calgary judge rules 27-year-old can go ahead with MAID death despite father's concerns

A Calgary judge has declined to issue an injunction that would prevent a 27-year-old woman from going ahead with her approved MAID (medical assistance in dying). The judge also refused to order a judicial review of how the young woman, who has autism, was able to obtain MAID.  (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
A Calgary judge has declined to issue an injunction that would prevent a 27-year-old woman from going ahead with her approved MAID (medical assistance in dying). The judge also refused to order a judicial review of how the young woman, who has autism, was able to obtain MAID. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

A Calgary judge has issued a ruling that clears the way for a 27-year-old woman to receive medical assistance in dying (MAID) despite her father's attempts through the courts to prevent that from happening.

A publication ban protects the identities of the parties and the medical professionals. CBC News will identify the daughter as M.V. and the father as W.V.

While Justice Colin Feasby acknowledged the "profound grief" that W.V. would suffer with the death of his child, he ruled the loss of M.V.'s autonomy was more important.

"M.V.'s dignity and right to self-determination outweighs the important matters raised by W.V. and the harm that he will suffer in losing M.V.," wrote Feasby in his 34-page written decision issued Monday.

"Though I find that W.V. has raised serious issues, I conclude that M.V.'s autonomy and dignity interests outweigh competing considerations."

Decision stayed pending potential appeal 

Feasby's decision sets aside an interim injunction the father was granted the day before M.V.'s assisted death was set to take place in the family's home.

But the judge also issued a 30-day stay of his decision so that W.V. can take the case to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which means the interim injunction will remain in place for the next month.

M.V. lives with her father and was approved for MAID in December.

She did not file any court documents explaining how she came to qualify for MAID.

Lawyer Austin Paladeau said the case boils down to his client's right to medical autonomy and argued W.V.'s love for his daughter "does not give him the right to keep her alive against her wishes."

'She is generally healthy'

But W.V. believes his daughter "is vulnerable and is not competent to make the decision to take her own life," according to Feasby's summary of the father's position.

"He says that she is generally healthy and believes that her physical symptoms, to the extent that she has any, result from undiagnosed psychological conditions."

Her only known diagnoses described in court earlier this month are autism and ADHD.

On March 11, when M.V.'s lawyers asked the judge to set aside the interim injunction, W.V.'s counsel asked for the injunction to continue and for a judicial review to be ordered that would examine how the daughter obtained MAID approval.

'Tie-breaker' doctor

Currently, two doctors or nurse practitioners have to approve a patient for MAID.

Feasby heard that two doctors were initially approached by M.V. One agreed to sign off on approving her for MAID, the other denied the application.

A third "tie-breaker" doctor, as described by lawyers for Alberta Health Services, was then offered to M.V.

Her father took issue with the third doctor who signed off on M.V.'s MAID approval "because he was not independent or objective."

At the March 11 hearing, Sarah Miller, counsel for the father, called the situation "a novel issue for Alberta" because the province operates a system where there is no appeal process and no means of reviewing a person's MAID approval.

'To live or die with dignity'

Miller asked the judge to order a judicial review of M.V.'s MAID approval.

While Feasby found the "court cannot review a MAID applicant's decision-making or the clinical judgment of the doctors and nurse practitioners," he did rule the actions of the MAID navigator — a person who works for AHS and helps co-ordinate a patient's eligibility assessment — can be examined.

Feasby ruled the courts can review whether the AHS MAID navigator followed its own policy.

"There can be no doubt that it is a serious issue," wrote Feasby. "The AHS MAID policy is part of the legal framework governing medical assistance in dying and, as such, is a matter of life and death."

But Feasby said he would not grant an injunction preventing M.V. from accessing her approved MAID pending a judicial review of the assessor's actions.

"The harm to M.V. if an injunction is granted goes to the core of her being," wrote Feasby.

"The choice to live or die with dignity is MV's alone to make."