Canadian Judge Grants 27-Year-Old Autistic Woman’s Request for Assisted Suicide

The decision is stayed for 30 days in order to allow the woman’s father to appeal.

Canadian flag waving in front of the Parliament Building on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Canadian flag waving in front of the Parliament Building on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (photo: Unsplash)

A judge in Canada has ruled that a woman with autism can be granted her request to die by assisted suicide, overruling efforts by the woman’s father to halt the deadly procedure. 

In a decision this week, Justice Colin Feasby of the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta said the 27-year-old woman, identified in documents as “MV,” would be allowed to access the country’s medical assistance in dying (MAID) even as her father argued that she was “vulnerable” and “not competent to make the decision to take her own life.” Feasby’s decision set aside an earlier injunction against the woman’s request for assisted suicide.

Canadian law stipulates that anyone seeking assisted suicide be suffering from “a serious illness, disease, or disability,” be experiencing “unbearable physical or mental suffering,” and be unable to reverse either the disease or the attendant suffering.

MV’s father argued that his daughter “is generally healthy” and that “her physical symptoms, to the extent that she has any, result from undiagnosed psychological conditions.” 

Feasby himself noted that the woman “has not provided any evidence” to contest those assertions, “nor has she identified her medical condition or provided information concerning her symptoms and how they cause her to suffer.” 

In his decision, the judge frankly admitted to MV: “I do not know you and I do not know why you seek MAID.” Her reasons for doing so, he wrote, “remain your own because I have respected your autonomy and your privacy.”

While Feasby acknowledged that the parents of the woman will suffer “substantial” harm if she kills herself, the harm she herself will experience “goes to the core of her being,” he argued. 

“An injunction would deny MV the right to choose between living or dying with dignity,” he claimed. 

“Further, an injunction would put MV in a position where she would be forced to choose between living a life she has decided is intolerable and ending her life without medical assistance,” the judge claimed. “This is a terrible choice that should not be forced on MV as attempting to end her life without medical assistance would put her at increased risk of pain, suffering, and lasting injury.”

Though the ruling set aside the earlier injunction, Feasby said the decision would be stayed for 30 days in order to allow the father to appeal.

The judge pointed out that “nothing that I have written should be taken to minimize or diminish [the father’s] potential loss.”

The woman’s father “can perhaps take some solace in the fact that he did his best to persuade [her] of the value of her life and her parents’ commitment to loving and supporting her,” he wrote. 

Assisted suicide has been legal in Canada since 2016. The Canadian government earlier this year postponed plans to expand its assisted suicide program to include those suffering from mental illness after a parliamentary report said the country’s health system is “not ready.”

The Canadian government’s website says that “eligibility for MAID for persons suffering solely from a mental illness has been delayed” until March 2027.