VANCOUVER, Thu Apr 29, 2011 ( – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed a lawsuit in the British Columbia Supreme Court on April 26 in an attempt to strike down Canada’s laws against assisted suicide.


The suit was filed on behalf of Lee and Hollis Johnson, who took Lee’s mother, Kay Carter (89), to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland in January 2010, where she died by lethal injection.

The Johnsons admit that they broke the law, which states that helping someone commit suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The lawsuit states, “Lee and Hollis each want the option of being able to arrange and legally obtain, in Canada, physician-assisted dying services for themselves, for each other and for other loved ones, in the event that either of them or any other loved one should suffer a grievous and irremediable illness and wish to end the suffering and die with dignity.”

The lawsuit claims that Canada’s Criminal Code provisions (section 241) that prohibit assisted suicide are unconstitutional and deny dying people the personal choice and right to request to be euthanized.

Litigation director for the BCCLA, Grace Pastine, told the media at a Vancouver press conference that, “Inflicting unbearable suffering on individuals, on dying patients who wish to end their lives, is unjust, unacceptable and unconstitutional.”

“We want every Canadian to have a choice to have what they consider to be a good death,” Pastine said.

Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), says his organization is prepared to intervene in the lawsuit if the case is allowed to proceed.

“The EPC believes that the case should not be given standing by the court; however, if the case proceeds we will seek to become interveners,” Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.

“EPC holds that the Criminal Code, when effectively applied, is designed to protect vulnerable people from another person influencing, encouraging, counselling or physically assisting the suicide of a person or causing that persons death,” Schadenberg said. “The Criminal Code protects people with disabilities from others who may consider their lives as not worth living and it protects seniors and other vulnerable people from the ultimate form of elder abuse, an intended death.”

Mark Pickup, an Alberta disability rights activist who is himself disabled, said that the assisted suicide laws are necessary to protect those with disabilities. He pointed out that he has suffered from many of the same symptoms as Kay Carter: “I want our laws prohibiting assisted suicide to stay in effect and enforced, in case I despair and happen to meet someone like Kay’s daughter and son-in-law who agrees with killing me.”

The BCCLA’s lawsuit is one of two challenges to the Assisted Suicide Act filed this month in B.C. Supreme Court. The Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die filed a claim on Apr. 8, also contesting the laws against assisted suicide.

Farewell Foundation’s suit was based on a refusal by the British Columbia Registrar of Companies to register the group because the aims of the organization – to establish a non-profit corporation in British Columbia to assist the suicides of its members – contravene the criminal code.

An article in the Vancouver Sun on April 8, 2011, quotes a statement by Jason Gratl, the lawyer for the Farewell Foundation, who stated, “The Foundation proposes a similar model based on organizations in that country (Switzerland) such as Exit, which has 70,000 members.”

“This means that the Farewell Foundation intends to establish an assisted suicide killing centre/organization that will provide lethal drugs, information and devices and directly assist their deaths,” Alex Schadenberg remarked, adding, “The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is also watching this case closely and will intervene, if necessary, at the appropriate time.”

The full text of the Notice of Claim in the BCCLA lawsuit is available here.


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