A Nova Scotia judge has dismissed a woman’s legal attempt to halt her husband from following through on a medically assisted death.
The decision from judge Elizabeth Van den Eynden, issued Friday, ends the temporary hold that had been put on the 83-year-old man’s request. The case represented the first time since medically assisted death became legal in Canada that a judge ordered such a request to be put on hold.
"I see no exceptional circumstances warranting a stay," Van den Eynden wrote in her decision, noting that the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that medically-assisted death is “a constitutionally protected right.”
The judge also noted that the man has “been experiencing considerable physical and mental suffering.”
CTV News spoke with the man’s wife, Katherine, last month, and she said her husband is a hypochondriac who is not mentally capable of making the decision to end his life. He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2003. According to court filings, he said he was given three years to live at that time. He also suffered a series of small strokes decades ago and was diagnosed with dementia in 2019.
In her ruling, the judge determined that Katherine failed to establish that a stay is warranted in the case. She added that her husband, referred to in her ruling as “Mr. X,” met all the eligibility criteria required for an assisted death and was afforded all the required statutory safeguards.
Katherine’s lawyer said Friday that the judge’s decision “calls into serious question the arbitrary application of the criminal law in a way that puts vulnerable people at risk.”
“Today’s decision by a single judge of a court of appeal on a procedural matter demonstrates how woefully inadequate the present regime and procedures are to protect vulnerable people lacking capacity from being put to death in Canada,” Hugh Scher told CTV News in an emailed statement Friday.
Katherine will be requesting a review of the decision, according to her lawyer. She is also calling on the provincial and federal governments to fix what Scher called “an arbitrary and broken legal process that permits the intentional killing by euthanasia of those who lack capacity and who don’t meet the most basic requirements of the law.”
A lawyer representing Katherine’s husband said he disagreed with the assertion that there were conflicting medical reports about his condition, adding that health professionals followed all the guidelines before approving medically-assisted death.
CTV News is not naming the man or publishing Katherine's surname, as a judge has ruled that the man's identity should remain private. The man previously declined an interview request from CTV News for this story.
With files from CTV News' Avis Favaro, Elizabeth St. Philip and Ryan Flanagan, and The Canadian Press