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Calgary woman whose MAID access currently blocked by courts now starving herself to death

A Calgary woman whose access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) is currently blocked by the courts is starving herself to death and expects to die within a few weeks, according to court documents.

The 27-year-old woman, who can only be identified as M.V. because of a publication ban, is asking the Alberta Court of Appeal to lift the judicial stay that puts a hold on her MAID approval pending appeal arguments in November.

M.V. was set to receive MAID on Feb. 1 but her father — W.V. —has engaged in a four-month legal battle in an attempt to prevent that from happening. 

The father argued his daughter does not have any medical conditions that would qualify her for MAID and asked the courts to intervene. 

In April, a Court of King’s Bench judge sided with M.V. but stayed his own decision to uphold her right to dignity and autonomy until the case could be heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal. 

‘VSED is incredibly unpleasant’

On Tuesday, M.V.’s lawyer Austin Paladeau filed an application with the province’s top court asking for that stay to be lifted because of a “material change in circumstance.”

On May 28, M.V commenced voluntary stoppage of eating and drinking (VSED). 

“VSED is incredibly unpleasant and is increasing my suffering,” reads part of M.V.’s affidavit filed with the application. 

“I would greatly prefer to receive MAID to reduce the suffering I have to endure to protect my autonomy in acting out a decision I have already made.”

M.V. says she cannot wait to die until Oct. 7 appeal. 

Suffering is ‘intolerable’

In her affidavit, M.V. says she’s had multiple admissions to the emergency room and “non-psychiatric inpatient admissions” over the last several months. 

“My physical suffering continues to be intolerable.”

M.V. has not disclosed what medical conditions she suffers from that allowed her to qualify for MAID. 

Her father believes his daughter is generally healthy, and his lawyer previously argued in court that any physical symptoms she presents are a result of psychological conditions. 

The daughter’s only known diagnoses are autism and ADHD, but those conditions do not qualify her for MAID.

“I have had every consult and specialist relevant to my symptoms determine that over the course of many years I have exhausted the available pain and nausea medications, and that I have tried all of the recommended complementary therapies,” said M.V. in her affidavit. 

‘Tie-breaker doctor’

Two doctors or nurse practitioners have to approve a patient for MAID. 

Only one of the two doctors initially approached by M.V. signed her MAID approval. The other denied the application. 

A third “tie-breaker” doctor, as described in court, was then offered to M.V. That doctor signed the MAID approval paperwork.

In order to qualify, the two doctors had to have found that she had a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition that causes “intolerable” suffering. 

M.V. did not have to disclose any details of her health issues to the courts. 

The court history of M.V.’s case

After M.V. was approved for MAID and one day before she was scheduled to die, W.V. got a temporary injunction preventing his daughter’s death.

He asked the judge to order a judicial review, which would examine how M.V. was approved for MAID. 

The father also wanted the interim injunction preventing M.V. from accessing MAID to be extended while the review takes place. 

At the same time, the daughter applied to have the injunction set aside so she could proceed with her approved MAID.

The case is before the Alberta Court of Appeal after W.V. lost his battle in the Court of King’s Bench when Justice Colin Feasby ruled in March that the daughter’s right to dignity and autonomy outweighed the “serious issues” raised by her father.

Interveners granted status

In her notice of appeal, Sarah Miller, the father’s lawyer, asked the court to reinstate the injunction preventing M.V.’s access to MAID until the application for judicial review of the approval process can be heard.

Miller also wanted to compel the daughter to answer questions about her MAID application and medical conditions.

Two organizations — Inclusion Canada and Euthanasia Prevention Coalition — applied for intervener status, which was approved by Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Willie de Wit on Tuesday before M.V.’s application was filed. 

M.V.’s lawyer opposed the application to allow interveners at the October hearing. 

Inclusion Canada, formerly known as  the Canadian Association for Community Living, is an organization that advocates for adults with disabilities and their families. 

“It has a substantial interest in this matter as persons with disabilities are not categorically excluded from eligibility for MAID,” wrote de Wit. 

Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has “also has been granted intervener status because of its expertise on matters related to end-of-life health care,” de Wit wrote.

The interveners are allowed to address three issues, including whether the courts can weigh in on decisions made in assessing an applicant’s eligibility for MAID.

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