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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Local health authority maps are updated each week. The brown maps show the number of confirmed and active cases of COVID-19 for the week of Jan. 15 to 21, with the blue map showing cases over the past year. (Image supplied)
COVID-19 outbreak numbers increase at Acropolis and exposures are up in S.D. 52

Business COVID-19 safety plans are law, public needs to follow health protocols - Northern Health

Asher Hauknes shows his strength with Prince Rupert Gymnastics head coach Erin Hipkiss looking on Nov. 13. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Gymnastics Association benefits from Community Gaming Grant

Prince Rupert sports club to receive just less than $90,000 to build new facility

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue was dispatched to a boat fire on Jan. 21 at Fairview Marina. (Photo: supplied)
Boat fire under investigation

Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended boat fire at Fairview Marina

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read