Pashta MaryMoon (Facebook)

Victoria woman wins court battle to keep job title of ‘death midwife’

Pashta MaryMoon has been in the business of death midwivery for 40 years

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.

READ MORE: B.C. college of midwives seeks to ban term ‘death midwife’

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.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

Touchstones Museum has opened up Nelson’s Cold War bunker to the public. The unique exhibit includes artifacts from the 1950s and 60s. Photo: Tyler Harper
Take cover! Cold War bunker opens to public in Nelson

The shelter was built in 1964 in case of nuclear fallout

(L-R) Kazia Hopp, Colby Mackintosh, Hunter Guidon and Russdale Carungui installed the solar panels. Photo: Nakusp Secondary School
Students install 280 solar panels at two SD 10 schools

The panels will help the schools save on their electrical costs

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Child care

Sixth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: BC Parks

Fifth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Three years ago, Larry Plummer challenged himself to hike up to the flag viewpoint on the Montrose Antenna trail 1,000 times. Photo: Gordon McAlpine
Senior celebrates 500th hike up Kootenay trail

Larry Plummer began his quest to complete 1,000th hike up Antenna Trail just over three years ago

Most Read