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First woman allowed to die with doctors help outside Quebec

Last week, a Calgary woman with a terminal illness ended her life in Vancouver, BC with the help of two doctors.

In Canada, it is still illegal for a doctor to help a patient end their life, but two recent Supreme Court rulings allow certain exemptions to be made. Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sheilah Martin had granted the woman a legal exemption for doctor-assisted death, and as of right now, it is believed she is the first person in Canada — outside of Quebec — who has turned to a physician to legally end her life. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec has its own assisted-dying laws, which came into effect in December.

The woman, who is referred to in legal documents as Ms. S, suffered from ALS and was described as being in constant pain. Almost entirely paralyzed, she had been told that her disease gave her around six months to live.

The judge ruled that she met the criteria that constitute an exemption, as she suffers from a medical condition that causes “intolerable suffering” and “can’t be alleviated.” In addition, the judge found Ms. S to be a “competent adult” that clearly “consents to the termination of life.”

In years to come, when more rulings are passed on assisted dying and the country’s legal landscape continues to change , many lawyers will undoubtedly want to look back on early cases — particularly of the first person to be allowed an exemption and die legally with the assistance of the doctor.

LexisNexis Quicklaw Full Service gives lawyers the tools they need to conduct comprehensive legal research, and view past court decisions such as that of Ms. S. With this professional and complete legal research service, lawyers can comb through crucial primary and secondary materials, and read past court decisions, legislation, legal commentary, and more. For those looking to get an even broader picture of the history of the country’s changing laws, this research service also provides full-text court and tribunal decisions dating back to the 1800s.

To read more about Ms. S, visit CBC News.

Jessica Fishbein

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