VANCOUVER - Norm Kunc knows that sometimes when people give him a quick glance while crossing the street they're likely to make some assumptions about his quality of life.
The 53-year-old uses a wheelchair, and his body moves with the somewhat spastic co-ordination of cerebral palsy.
He was outside B.C.'s highest court on Monday, hoisting a sign that read "legalizing the right to die fosters the duty to die" because he believes a decision on doctor-assisted suicide that's working its way through the legal system will greatly impact people with disabilities.
"I know that anyone listening to me right now would never say 'He should die'. But they're saying that because they can hear my voice," he said in an interview.
"But what happens if I were to have a stroke — to be in the hospital where I could not speak? Is it feasible that a nurse or a doctor might come and see me and say, 'his life isn't worth living?'"
Kunc was joined by several dozen other people carrying signs both condemning and praising the legal possibility of the right to die on what had been scheduled as the first day of appeal hearings for a landmark B.C. Supreme Court ruling that came down last June.
The decision by Justice Lynn Smith struck down a longtime law and opened the door for terminally ill people to end their lives with the help of a doctor. She ordered Parliament to re-write the legislation around the emotionally-charged issue.
However, the hearing was unexpectedly adjourned for two weeks after one of the key government lawyers fell ill.
Both those lawyers and counsel with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are now expected to the B.C. Court of Appeal on Mar. 18.
Before the delay was announced, another opponent of doctor-assisted suicide said he understands that people who support the ruling want more control over the way their life will end.
But Will Johnston, with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C., said he believes they are naive to suggest new guidelines will prevent abuse.
"For the same reason we rejected capital punishment, we should be rejecting anything which could put innocent people at risk. We think this is a serious public safety issue," he said.
However Wanda Morris, with a group called Dying with Dignity, said the judge concluded that safeguards are working in other places around the world that allow assisted suicide.
"I believe that those who are opposing us are misreading the evidence and actually that many of them have a theological agenda and they are mis-stating the facts to support something that's actually quite different," she said.
The ideal outcome for the case would be the creation of legislation that allows mentally competent adults the choice to end their life if they are suffering grievously and get assistance from a medical professional, she said.
Experts on both sides of the issue have said that after a ruling comes down in B.C.'s high court the case could still go to the Supreme Court of Canada for a final decision.
Shelly Hunter was holding a sign that simply stated, "I'm here because of dad."
"I didn't like his death," she said, noting the 81-year-old was suffering dementia when he died about a year ago.
"It prompted me to start on this journey of, 'If it were to happen to me, (I would want to) have a good death."