Lamb Case Summary

A summary of the Lamb court case in British Columbia

Julia Lamb is a young woman with spinal muscular atrophy living in British Columbia. Although her condition is progressive, it is not terminal. Ms. Lamb is currently able to work part time and live independently with attendant services. However, she fears that a sudden decline in her condition – especially one that impairs her ability to breathe independently and use her hands – will leave her “trapped” in her body for years.

On June 27, 2016, Ms. Lamb and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government. They are challenging the constitutionality of the requirement in the assisted suicide law that the death of a person seeking assisted suicide must be “reasonably foreseeable.”

In the summer of 2017, Robyn Moro joined the case as a second plaintiff. Ms. Moro lived with debilitating pain as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Following an Ontario Superior Court decision, Ms. Moro’s doctor decided that her death was reasonably foreseeable. Ms. Moro was deemed eligible for euthanasia and died that August. She will remain part of the case, however, through written statements or her husband’s testimony.

In the fall of 2019, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association announced that the trial, which was scheduled to take place in November of that year, had been adjourned. Dr. Madeline Li – a cancer psychiatrist who oversees MAID at a network of four well-known Toronto healthcare facilities – submitted evidence for the federal government stating that Julia Lamb’s death could be considered “reasonably foreseeable.”

Dr. Li cited the A.B. case, in which the Ontario Superior Court ruled that a “reasonably foreseeable” death does not have to be imminent or predictable within a specific time frame. A guideline published by the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers “encouraged [medical professionals] to read the [term] broadly.” Days before the adjournment was granted, the Quebec Superior Court found in the Truchon case that the “reasonably foreseeable” requirement was unconstitutional and should be removed.
Upon hearing the news, Ms. Lamb said that the “shadow” which hung over her, and her fears of future pain and suffering, had been “lifted.” Though she has no immediate plans to die, she is “relieved” to know that she now has the option.

Ms. Lamb’s condition has reportedly worsened since the claim was filed. Yet she has also married, traveled, and volunteered while being “surrounded by supportive family and friends.” Disability advocates are concerned that broadening access to assisted suicide will lead to the lives of disabled people being devalued. They believe that Ms. Lamb can lead a fulfilling life with increased limitations if given adequate support.