A Victoria woman will get to keep her self-described job title of “death midwife” despite best efforts for an injunction made by the College of Midwives of B.C. in a provincial court recently.
The issue between the college and Pashta MaryMoon first began in 2016, when the provincial midwives regulator wrote a letter to MaryMoon asking her to stop using the term.
MaryMoon, who said her work involves providing help to people who are dying, declined to change her self-title and continued to use it on the website Dying with Dignity Canada, as well as on her social media accounts.
In late 2018, the college took MaryMoon to B.C. Supreme Court, seeking an injunction for her to stop using the name. But Justice Neena Sharma struck down the application on Monday.
While Sharma determined that MaryMoon calling herself a midwife when she isn’t a member of the college does violate the Health Professions Act – which prevents people from using the term to reference work outside of the role of a traditional midwife – the piece of legislation itself is unconstitutional and an infringement on MaryMoon’s right to freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court of Canada “has been very clear that short of physical violence, or threats of violence, any activity that conveys meaning is prima facie protected expression,” Sharma wrote in her decision published online this week.
“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 that she is conveying meaning.”
The college, along with the Attorney-General of B.C., argued that the Health Professions Act was created to clear any confusion for British Columbians and patients of whether a provider is licensed or not. But MaryMoon countered that the definition of midwife isn’t solely for pregnancy.
Sharma agreed with the death midwife.
According to the court documents, MaryMoon was trained by one of the first death midwife in the U.S., whose website first launched in 1997. She has been providing what she calls “deathcare services” for more than 40 years, which includes helping a dying person and their family find meaning in their death by bringing about a “a peaceful, respectful and compassionate death and post-death experience.”
The college’s executive director Louise Aerts told Black Press Media that she’s concerned about the judgment and “its potential impact on public safety.”
“At this time, we are carefully reviewing the repercussions and considering our options to move forward, including legal action such as an appeal,” she said.
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