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Euthanasia Prevention Coalition requests intervener status in British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s Carter case

by | Oct 12, 2011

By Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

Hugh Scher, legal counsel for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), indicated that the EPC application to be granted intervener status by the British Columba Court has been filed. EPC is awaiting the response from the court.

On April 21, 2010, Bill C-384, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, was defeated in parliament by a resounding vote of 228 to 59. The suicide lobby has now taken their case to the British Columbia courts because they were unable to convince their elected representatives to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association “Carter” case (BCCLA Carter) seeks to legalize assisted suicide(whereby doctors prescribe suicide), and physician directed euthanasia (where physicians approve the administration of a lethal injection).

We consider the BCCLA Carter case to be dangerous to public safety and a recipe for elder abuse and the abuse of people with disabilities and people with chronic conditions.

The language used by the BCCLA in the Carter case, if accepted, would not limit euthanasia or assisted suicide to people who are terminally ill, and it would not restrict the acts of euthanasia or assisted suicide to physicians. People with disabilities and those with chronic conditions could be offered euthanasia or assisted suicide instead to the provision of systems and supports that enable these people to live with equality.

The scourge of elder abuse has become a national concern and the prevention of elder abuse has become a national priority. Elder abuse is significantly under-reported with research indicating that up to 70% of the abuse being done by family members or people to whom the victim is dependent upon.

The language used by the BCCLA case will open new avenues for elder abuse and abuse of people with disabilities because it would enable family members and care givers to subtly pressure or coerce a vulnerable people into “choosing” death by lethal dose. For many, the choice of euthanasia and assisted suicide will be an illusion in a life that is related to abuse and neglect.

The EPC rejects the idea that it is somehow necessary to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide to have a dignified death. A parliamentary committee that has investigated and is making recommendations for improvements in Palliative care, Elder Abuse prevention, Suicide prevention and the needs of Canadians with disabilities, is due to release its report in November 2011. The BC court needs to reject the legalization of “assisted death” and instead it needs to demand that the government improve the quality and availability of care that is provided to its citizens.

In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, the suicide rate has steadily climbed since 2000 with Oregon’s suicide rate now being 35% higher than the national average. This corresponds with other trends that suggest that the social acceptance of assisted suicide creates a suicide contagion effect.

The EPC is particularly concerned with the language of the BCCLA –Notice of Application which indicates a particularly negative attitude to the lives of people with disabilities. Living with a disability is not a life not worth living but rather a challenge to society to enable people with disabilities to live with equality and acceptance.