With Calgary woman starving herself to death, court of appeal scrambling to expedite MAID case

Lawyers and judges are scrambling to expedite the case of a Calgary woman who was approved for medical assistance in dying (MAID) but is, instead, starving herself to death.

The 27-year-old woman, who can only be identified as MV because of a publication ban, was set to receive MAID in February but her father, known as WV, has been fighting in court to prevent that from happening.

Earlier this year, WV got a temporary injunction, blocking his daughter’s MAID access. Although a Court of King’s Bench judge ultimately sided with his daughter, a judicial stay of that decision is in place so that WV can appeal.

The stay prevents MV from accessing MAID until the case is heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal in October. But, according to an application filed in court on Tuesday, MV stopped eating and drinking on May 28.

Death: not ‘if’ but ‘how’

In an affidavit filed in support of that application, MV says she “would greatly prefer to receive MAID to reduce (her) suffering.”

MV, whose only publicly known diagnoses are autism and ADHD, has never disclosed in court the conditions she suffers from that led to her approval and her father does not believe she qualifies for MAID.

Lawyers and Court of Appeal Justice Jolaine Antonio gathered on video conference Wednesday morning to figure out next steps.

“Unfortunately this is not a situation where the question is ‘Will this happen?’ it’s ‘How will this happen?'” said MV’s lawyer Evan Jovanovic, speaking about his client’s death.

‘Expediting the appeal’

Antonio says the law doesn’t allow her to do what MV’s lawyers have asked for and instead requested the parties consider an expedited appeal to be heard by a panel of judges in the last week of June.

“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.”

Antonio directed Jovanovic and co-counsel Austin Paladeau to make contact with MV: “not that I’m looking for her permission, just her position on expediting the appeal,” said the judge.

“I can’t intrude on your relationship with her,” said Antonio.

“If there is any aspect of this that involves questions larger than itself it would merit getting into a hearing before obviating any need for a hearing.”

‘Change to suffering ‘self-inflicted’

Although she agreed to “adjust accordingly,” WV’s lawyer Sarah Miller expressed frustration that MV not only consented to the stay, she was also offered a date of June 10 for appeal arguments but chose the Oct. 7 date.

“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,” Miller said.

“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.”

Antonio gave MV’s lawyers until the end of day Wednesday to get back to her with their client’s position.

If the appeal is heard in three weeks, lawyers will have to move at “blinding speed” with “draconian” filing deadlines, Antonio acknowledged.

“Everyone here, the court included, wishes good outcomes for (MV),” said the judge.

“We are having this conversation in order to find a way to do what is best. I hope that she will join us through her actions in that dialogue.”

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