Friday's B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Canada's ban on doctor-assisted suicide was cautiously welcomed by the woman in charge of a Kamloops seniors' service.
Brenda Prevost of the Centre for Seniors Information said while she believes people should have a choice, particularly where pain, suffering and dignity are involved, safeguards need to be put in place.
"Without safeguards, it's scary. If the safeguards are in place, the person has made those decisions without being in distress, then people should have the freedom to choose," she said.
"The pitfall is it can cause a disruption in families. And medically speaking, it puts a hardship on medical staff. The pitfall is someone being coerced or manipulated into making that decision against their will."
On Friday, Justice Lynn Smith ruled that Gloria Taylor has a right to a physician-assisted suicide.
Taylor has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and fought through the courts to die with the help of a doctor when she feels the time is right.
Smith's 395-page ruling said Canada's laws banning doctor-assisted suicide were discriminatory, disproportionate and overbroad. She suspended her decision for a year to give Parliament time to change the laws and bring them in line with the Constitution.
The court decision allows Taylor to proceed, with her doctor, to seek a physician-assisted death under specified conditions.
Prevost said the issue is definitely on the minds of seniors, especially those who have low incomes and don't know if they will be able to afford quality care as they age.
"I know people with long-term disabilities who do not wish to be kept alive under medical means," she said.
"And a lot of seniors worry about the stress on family. If they're not going to have a good quality of life, what stress will that put on family?"
Prevost's own mother said she felt her life was at an ending point when she was 84 years old. She lived to 92, and the last months of her life were painful at times after she had a stroke, she said.
"I watched my mother suffer for the last six, eight months of her life. She was very uncomfortable," said Prevost.
"She had a stroke, then she had several other strokes after that. Her quality of life dramatically deteriorated. She hadn't put anything in place. I know she wouldn't have wanted to live like that and be kept alive just because her heart was still beating."
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association applauded the decision while the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition condemned it.
Taylor herself issued a statement saying the court ruling allowed her to approach her death with dignity, independence and grace.
But Dr. Will Johnston, with the prevention coalition, said the ruling is alarming and an appeal is expected.
"We would caution Canadians to be skeptical that they can achieve greater choice and greater autonomy at the end of their lives or at any other time of their lives by giving power and constitutional protection to those who would arrange your suicide or your death," he said at a news conference outside the courthouse.
"We think that this is naive."
The judge ruled the provisions in the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe on Taylor's rights to life, liberty and security of persons.
She ruled the laws are discriminatory for those who are grievously ill or physically disabled who want to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives.
Her declaration that the laws had no force and effect was specific to doctor-assisted suicide where the patient is a fully informed competent adult free of coercion and who was not clinically depressed.
The judge also set out several rules for Taylor if she wants to use her constitutional exemption during the year, including providing a written request, that her doctor attests that she is terminally ill and near death and documentation of the medication that the attending physician plans to use for her suicide.
When the conditions are met, the judge ruled Taylor can make an application to the B.C. Supreme Court which will order that "a physician may legally provide Ms. Taylor with a physician-assisted death at the time of her choosing."
Lawyers for the Canadian government argued at trial that the current laws were necessary to protect people in vulnerable circumstances, and that nothing short of the existing laws would achieve that goal.
Udo Schuklenk, professor of philosophy who holds the Ontario research chair in bioethics at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., predicted the B.C. government will appeal the decision, "and then almost certainly it will land on the desk of the Supreme Court of Canada."
"And until then you can be certain nothing is going to change... Nothing changes for physicians because at the moment all the court has said is that the current legislation is not in line with what the Constitution would require of legislation in this country.
"And it basically gives government a year to respond to this. But during this year, the legislation as it stands remains."