Sunday, June 05, 2016

Is This Any Time for Canada's Justice Minister to be Playing Politics?

When it comes to the assisted dying issue, Trudeau justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, is playing politics - with people's lives at stake.

...the federal justice minister hasn't told the full story of how E.F. — a 58-year-old Alberta woman who died last week —obtained judicial approval to end her suffering with medical help, according to the woman's lawyer, Trista Caley.

To hear Wilson-Raybould tell it, E.F. "was suffering from a mental illness and ... a psychiatrist had approved (her) eligibility for medical assistance over Skype."

"I don't think that's a situation that we want to get into," she warned Liberals at the ruling party's national convention in Winnipeg last month.

The justice minister has repeatedly referred to the E.F. case while urging parliamentarians to pass Bill C-14, the government's proposed new law on assisted dying, by Monday. She's argued that many doctors will refuse to provide medical assistance in dying in the absence of a legal framework while others may provide it to vulnerable people who shouldn't be eligible — like E.F., in Wilson-Raybould's judgment.

Now we've heard the Trudeau government's version, let's hear the truth about this woman, E.F.

E.F.'s application for an assisted death was supported by three doctors: her long-time attending physician — who had treated her for 28 years, including referrals to several psychiatrists and at least one neurologist — an assisting doctor and a psychiatrist with expertise in E.F.'s condition, who reviewed her medical file but did not examine her.

It was the assisting doctor, based in Vancouver, who used Facetime to interview E.F, "in addition to" a full review of her entire medical chart, multiple telephone conversations with her attending physician and email exchanges with a long-time friend, Caley stressed in an email to The Canadian Press.

She noted that the use of electronic interface between doctors and patients is a widely accepted practice that is actually promoted by provincial telehealth programs.

"I question why this is acceptable practice except when utilized in the context of allowing our client to connect with a health care provider prepared to her assist her (who was) located in a different geographic location from her," Caley said.

In any event, Caley said affidavits from the three doctors were in evidence before Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench, which granted E.F. an exemption from the ban on assisted dying, and again before the Alberta Court of Appeal, which upheld the lower court's decision. In both courts, federal lawyers argued that the medical evidence of E.F.'s eligibility, particularly from the psychiatrist, was insufficient.

"At both levels of court, those arguments were rejected," Caley said.

E.F., whose name has never been disclosed to protect her and her family's privacy, had suffered for nine years from a psychiatric illness called "severe conversion disorder." It caused her muscles to spasm involuntarily, producing constant pain and migraines and rendering her effectively blind, incapable of walking and often incapable of eating.

To hear Jody tell it, E.F. just had a case of the "downers." That's our justice minister, really?

All three doctors agreed that E.F. was competent and enduring intolerable suffering that was irremediable. The Alberta Court of Appeal agreed, in the process blasting a hole in the rationale that the federal government has used to justify the restrictive approach taken in Bill C-14.

The appeal court said precluding a person who is not near death or suffering strictly from a psychological illness is inconsistent with last year's landmark Supreme Court ruling, which struck down the ban on assisted death and gave the government a year to come up with a new law. The court granted the government an extension earlier this year that was to expire Monday.

The top court directed that assisted dying should be available to consenting adults with "grievous and irremediable" medical conditions who are enduring suffering that is intolerable to them.

And that's another swift kick up the ass for you, Jody. You must be getting used to it by now. I hope so for you can expect there'll be plenty more where that came from just so long as you keep flouting the law. Imagine that, a justice minister working to undermine a desperately ill person's Charter protections. It's a funny old world, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Peter Hogg has popped up to state the obvious and agree with you:

“In my opinion, the bill is not consistent with the constitutional parameters set out in the Carter reasons... It is incredible to me that the court in Carter, when it called for legislation by Parliament ‘consistent with the constitutional parameters set out in these reasons,’ was envisaging legislation that would narrow the class of entitled persons.”

Appealing this law should be a slam-dunk, but as you say, why should a grievously ill person have to do so.


The Mound of Sound said...

Jesus, Hogg is still alive? Yes, when it comes to the constitution, Peter Hogg is the "pro from Dover." Of course he's right. I expect the Trudeau government's ploy is being met with howls of derision in every law school in the country. Yet there's something a bit dark in a government that knowingly seeks to operate outside the law for what can only be political considerations. To do it at the expense of people enduring unbearable suffering is beyond shameful. It's brutal.