Nicole Gladu, who is incurably ill, arrives at the courthouse in Montreal on Jan. 7, 2019, for the beginning of a trial challenging the provincial and federal laws on medically assisted death on the grounds they are too restrictive. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Nicole Gladu, who is incurably ill, arrives at the courthouse in Montreal on Jan. 7, 2019, for the beginning of a trial challenging the provincial and federal laws on medically assisted death on the grounds they are too restrictive. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MAID litigant says disability doesn’t make her vulnerable to pressure to end her life

Nicole Gladu is one of two Quebecers who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the federal law

Nicole Gladu has no time for the argument that she’s a vulnerable person who needs to be protected from being coerced into seeking a medically assisted death.

The 75-year-old Quebecer uses a wheelchair due to post-polio syndrome, a degenerative condition that has over the past 25 years reactivated childhood scoliosis, weakened her muscles, distorted her body and made it hard to breathe.

But she still lives independently in a 14th-floor condo with a beautiful view and cherishes her autonomy — including the right to seek medical help to end her suffering when she decides it has become intolerable.

Gladu is one of two Quebecers who successfully challenged the constitutionality of the federal law’s stipulation that medical assistance in dying (MAID) can only be provided to people whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

As a result of the court ruling in her case, the Trudeau government has introduced Bill C-7, now before the Senate, to expand access to MAID for people who are not at the end of life.

Gladu dismisses as paternalistic critics who argue that the bill leaves vulnerable people with disabilities open to being pressured — either directly or indirectly through societal attitudes and a lack of support services — into receiving MAID.

“Vulnerability is a concept used ad nauseam by paternalistic people in good health (for) standing in the way of MAID,” Gladu says.

She’s equally dismissive of the argument — advanced by disability-rights groups and echoed by the majority of Conservative MPs — that the bill sends a message that life with a disability is not worth living.

“My life journey (75 years) proves that a handicap can stimulate a person to move back her limits.”

Gladu spoke to The Canadian Press through emails because she was not feeling well enough for a phone interview.

Neither Gladu nor Jean Truchon, whose cerebral palsy had led him to lose the use of all four limbs, was eligible for an assisted death because they were not near the ends of their lives. They went to court to challenge the “foreseeable death” provision in the federal law and a similar provision in the Quebec law.

Last fall, Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin struck down the foreseeable-death requirement and Quebec’s end-of-life requirement as violations of the pair’s charter rights to equal treatment under the law and to life, liberty and security of the person.

Bill C-7 is intended to bring the federal law into compliance with that ruling. It would scrap the foreseeable-death requirement but set up two tracks for eligibility for MAID: one with somewhat relaxed rules for those who are near death and a second with more stringent rules for those who are not.

Gladu says the bill is more or less consistent with Baudouin’s ruling, although she notes that it would impose a short delay — 90 days — on assessing MAID requests from those not near death.

The bill has triggered strenuous objections from disability-rights groups and Conservative politicians, who maintain that people with debilitating disabilities are being discriminated against, singled out for MAID when they are not at the end of life and, thus, effectively being told that their lives are not of equal value.

They argue that many people with disabilities are marginalized, living in poverty and without the support services that would make their lives more fulfilling. For such people, choosing MAID is not a real choice, they contend.

But Gladu doesn’t fit that description — which in part explains Baudouin’s conclusion that each case must be assessed on its merits, that a blanket exclusion of people who aren’t at the natural end of their lives is a violation of their charter rights.

Gladu says she has never missed anything needed for a full life. In her youth, her father, a teacher, gave her books that became her “passport to travel through life, expanding my imagination so I could dream my life before living my dreams.”

Because of polio, contracted when she was four, Gladu was initially home-schooled. But she eventually went to university, became a journalist and worked abroad in Paris and then New York, where she was a press attaché at the United Nations before returning to Quebec to retire.

“I am grateful to have lived my retirement on the 14th floor of a condominium building, which offers not only all the necessities, but also a breathtaking view of the river that mirrors the beauty of the sunsets,” she says.

“My atypical journey is proof, I believe, of a very autonomous character, which will culminate with death.”

Until the law is changed to scrap the end-of-life criterion, Baudouoin gave Gladu and Truchon, and others in similar positions, the right to seek individual court exemptions to receive MAID.

Truchon, 51, died with medical assistance in April.

Gladu has not availed herself of the procedure but she says it gives her peace of mind knowing it’s an option as her condition deteriorates.

As she said immediately after Baudouin’s ruling: “Now, it’s really a matter of personal decision. It’s up to me or it’s up to Mr. Truchon or other people like us to decide if we prefer the quality of life to the quantity of life.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

medical aid in dying

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Darryl Mazor share a photo of his 78-year-old mother, Rena Mazor, singing to her 45-year-old cockatoo, Sassie. (Special to The News)
PHOTOS: Only one Fab Senior could win…

But there were more than a dozen worthy seniors who were entered in the photo contest

During a recent late afternoon, with a nice breeze blowing through her Maple Ridge backyard, Zoe Bell caught pictures of a hummingbird visiting her garden, then about 30 minutes later a “beautiful butterfly” arrived to help the boths, bees, and other insects pollinate. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Searching blooms for sweet nectar

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Fraser Health registered nurse Kai Kayibadi draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
LETTER: Writer questions spread of variant and timing of vaccinations

Will there ever be a return to normal, or will people need to invest in respirators?

A family of geese wandered through the beach area of Whonnock Lake recently. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
VIDEO: Whonnock Lake visitors marvel at cute goslings

Defecating fowl can also bring with them potential issues for Maple Ridge park

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 following an assault. (File photo)
Trial underway in February 2020 death of White Rock senior

Ross Banner charged with manslaughter following Five Corners altercation

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Most Read