VANCOUVER — Castlegar mother Ann Fomenoff misses her dead daughter Gloria Taylor every day.
But the 85-year-old does not question the battle waged by Taylor to change the laws that criminalized doctor-assisted dying.
To honour her daughter, who had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and died in October at age 64, Fomenoff will be in B.C. Court of Appeal Monday as the federal government begins its appeal of a 2012 decision by the B.C. Supreme Court. That decision ruled that criminalizing doctor-assisted death was a violation of the constitutional rights of Taylor and two other plaintiffs.
Because one of the federal government lawyers is ill, an adjournment will be sought— although the B.C. Civil Liberties Association hopes to begin proceedings on Tuesday.
“My family and I support Gloria 100 per cent in her battle for compassion and choice at the end of life,” Fomenoff told a press conference held Sunday by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
“These deeply personal decisions should be made by the individuals who are suffering, not by the government,” she said.
Fomenoff worked with the hospice society in Castlegar and still volunteers with the group.
“I have seen first-hand the suffering of the dying,” she said. “I’ve witnessed deaths that were so slow, difficult and painful and undignified. Deaths took away everything that made life worth living.”
The federal government sees it differently, as do some other groups.
Intervenor status in the case has been granted to the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living.
Amy Hasbrouck is co-ordinator of Not Dead Yet Canada, a project of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, and travelled to Vancouver from Quebec for the court proceedings.
She supports the federal government decision to appeal.
Hasbrouck said people with disabilities who wish to end their lives are not treated the same way as an able-bodied person would be.
“When a person with a disability expresses those feelings, those are the same feelings that a non-disabled person expresses when they want to kill themselves,” Hasbrouck said.
“When a non-disabled person says, ‘I want to die, my life is terrible, my life is worthless, I can’t go on living this way,’ our society says, ‘We want to prevent your suicide,’ ” she said.
“But when a person with a disability says the exact same thing, society says, ‘We want to help your suicide.’ ”
The federal government is expected to present its case for at least two days, with the civil liberties association to respond.
Grace Pastine, litigation director for the association, said the Taylor case is the most expensive in the history of her organization. If lawyers had not taken the case for free, Pastine said, “it would have been a million dollars in legal fees.”
She said she expects a decision in the case, which was scheduled to continue through to Friday, to be reserved and made in a few months. If the matter then goes to the Supreme Court of Canada, she said it might take one to two years to get a final ruling.
© Copyright 2013