NRL News

Supreme Court of Canada allows appeal of lower court assisted suicide ruling, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition concerned with the safety, security and equality of every Canadian

by | Jan 16, 2014


British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lynne Smith

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lynne Smith

The Supreme Court of Canada decided today to hear an appeal in Carter v. Canada, a decision which rejected an attempt to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) intervened in the Carter case at the lower court and at the BC Court of Appeal. EPC will seek to intervene in Carter at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Carter case, was launched by the family of Kay Carter, a woman who died by assisted suicide in 2010 in Switzerland. The Carter family claimed that Kay was denied the “right” to die with dignity in Canada and her family was forced to break the law by assisting her travel to Switzerland for suicide. The BC Civil Liberties Association represented the Carter family.

On June 15, 2012, Justice Lynn Smith decided that Canada’s assisted suicide law was unconstitutional. Smith found that people with disabilities who are unable to kill themselves by suicide without assistance were discriminated by the law.

Smith also decided that “safeguards” can effectively protect vulnerable people. Smith gave Parliament one year to pass a law allowing assisted suicide and a limited form of euthanasia in Canada.

Fortunately, the federal government appealed the decision of Justice Smith to the BC Court of Appeal.

The BC Court of Appeal found that Smith did not have the right to strike down Canada’s assisted suicide law and that she made several errors and incorrect assumptions in her decision.

The Appeals court stated that Smith was wrong when she found that the circumstances had sufficiently changed since 1993, giving her the right to strike down “Rodriguez v. British Columbia.” (Sue Rodriguez, who was living with ALS, had petitioned the courts to grant her the right to die by assisted suicide. However the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Canada’s assisted suicide law.)

The BC Court of Appeal also found that Smith was wrong when she assumed that the Rodriguez decision did not consider certain constitutional analysis. The BC Court of Appeal concluded that only the Supreme Court of Canada has the right to overturn its decisions.

The BC Court of Appeal decision further challenged Justice Smith’s assertion that Canada’s assisted suicide law discriminates against people with disabilities. The majority stated that:

“those who have only a limited ability to enjoy life are not less alive and have no less a right to life, than able-bodied and fully competent persons.”

EPC was pleased that the BC Court of Appeal recognized that Canada’s laws prohibiting assisted suicide meet the legislative objective that is grounded in respect for and the desire to protect human life and the current assisted suicide law is rationally connected to its purpose.

The BC Court of Appeal also acknowledged that parliament recently considered a bill (Bill C-384) that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. On April 21, 2010, parliament overwhelmingly defeated Bill C-384 by a vote of 228 to 59.

Laws that prohibit euthanasia and/or assisted suicide provide equal protection in law for all people and uphold the safety of all people, in every life conditions, from having their life taken from them.

EPC legal counsel Hugh Scher stated:

“EPC is concerned about the safety, security and equality of people with disabilities and seniors which is central to the protections set out under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Criminal Code.”

EPC-BC chair Dr Will Johnston states:

“The Supreme Court of Canada will consider this important public safety issue. The Court rejected assisted suicide and euthanasia in 1993 and prevented Canada from taking a wrong turn. In the 20 years since, human nature has not changed, our poor record of predicting the dying process has not changed, and vulnerable people are still at risk in our health care system. Euthanasia activists continue to confuse the public about turning off ventilators, which has little to do with the issue. We are getting better at controlling symptoms, and we have seen the abuses of euthanasia in those few jurisdictions where this practice has become entrenched, two good reasons to continue to avoid euthanasia and assisted suicide in our Canada.

“Let us hope that by clarifying the issues, the Supreme Court once again confirms the Canadian rejection of suicide and direct killing of the sick, and that we stay the course in providing great symptom control to all who need it.

Disability rights advocate Amy Hasbrouck of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet states:

“People with disabilities, chronic illness and seniors are negatively affected by assisted suicide and euthanasia because it leads to the impression that our lives are lacking in meaning and value as compared to other Canadians.”

EPC Executive Director, Alex Schadenberg added:

“The evidence is clear that in jurisdictions where these practices have been legalized, there have been significant abuses of vulnerable people. For example, a study in Belgium demonstrated that 32% of the people killed under the Belgian euthanasia law were killed without request, a breach of a fundamental condition of that law.

“Not one of these doctors has been prosecuted.”

Categories: Euthanasia