After years of incarceration and suffering from a terminal illness, Ed Speidel, a 62-year-old inmate was granted day parole. Speidel, diagnosed with end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and rheumatoid arthritis, has been permitted to move into a secure home with comprehensive medical assistance.
With medical examinations revealing only a 19% lung functionality compared to a healthy adult, the parole brings a respite to Speidel, who expressed his fears of dying within the confines of his cell.
Speidel, an inmate of the Matsqui Institution, a medium-security prison in Abbotsford, B.C, had pleaded in a phone interview about his dread of passing away behind bars, a sentiment that resonated with his plea for parole.
Despite serving 41 years of his sentence, his plea for compassionate or geriatric parole in July 2022 was turned down. Undeterred, Speidel moved forward this year, seeking legal aid to apply for medically assisted death. Despite his criminal record of robberies, Speidel maintained that he never inflicted harm on anyone.
With over 1700 federal prisoners aged 50 and above, constituting 25.6 per cent of the prison population, the proposition of terminally ill elderly prisoners is a growing concern to tackle.
Lisa Crossley of Prisoner Legal Services, Vancouver, advocates for the provision of more options for prisoners like Speidel. She argues that individuals suffering terminal illnesses pose lesser risks, thereby warranting reconsideration for some form of release, adding that it is a matter of public importance affecting many federal prisoners.
In the face of an aging prison population coupled with the imminent threat of life-threatening health risks, Speidel’s case serves as a precedent, raising vital questions regarding the treatment and rights of the elderly and terminally ill convicts.