BC woman wins right to use term ‘death midwife’
The College of Midwives of British Columbia has lost its appeal in the Supreme Court to ban a Victoria woman from calling herself a “death midwife”. The college, which regulates the province’s midwives, sent Pashta MaryMoon a letter in 2016 asking her to stop using the term that she says refers to her providing help to people on their deathbed.
When refused, they went to court seeking an injunction to stop MaryMoon. However, BC Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma dismissed the application and struck it down as unconstitutional. A pleased MaryMoon said, “I’m delighted that the judge decided that I succeeded in proving my case. My lawyer was very much a part of that. We have always thought from the beginning that (the law) was unnecessary and restrictive, so I’m happy about the judge concluding that it has no force or effect.”
Justice Sharma found MaryMoon had violated the Health Professions Act by her use of the term ‘Midwife’ on social media and on a website titled ‘Dying With Dignity Canada’. The section of the act prevents a person from using the term midwife in association with or as part of another title describing a person’s work.
However, in a 37-page ruling, the judge said it was also clear that the legislation itself was unconstitutional because it violated MaryMoon’s right to freedom of expression. She noted that the Supreme Court of Canada has been “very clear” that short of physical violence or threats of violence, any activity that conveys meaning is protected expression.
“As soon as an action is capable of communicating anything to another person, it has meaning and is protected expression. In my view, when the respondent refers to herself as a ‘death midwife’, there can be no doubt she is conveying meaning,” she said.