British Columbia Court of Appeal upholds Canada’s ban on assisted suicide
VANCOUVER, BC, October 10, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life and anti-euthanasia leaders are applauding a British Columbia Court of Appeal's decision, released today at 1:00 p.m., overturning a lower court ruling that found Canada’s ban on assisted suicide unconstitutional.
The ruling was issued in the Carter case, which centred on Gloria Taylor, a woman who sought the "right to die" after she was diagnosed with ALS in 2009.
On June 15, 2012, Justice Lynn Smith of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that Criminal Code prohibition on assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and that new legal principles and social realities justified a reconsideration of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1993 Rodriguez ruling.
But in their 2-1 ruling today, the majority at the B.C. Court of Appeal found that the legal principles had not altered such that Justice Smith was at liberty to overturn Supreme Court precedent.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which intervened in the case, said he was pleased the court upheld the clear position of Canada’s Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.
Parliament voted defeated a euthanasia bill 228-59 in 2010.
“We are very happy that the Court of Appeals has recognized that vulnerable Canadians need to be protected by the law,” he said.
Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, said the ruling is “great news.”
“It remains to be seen what’s going to happen after this, whether it goes to the Supreme Court, but today we can celebrate the protection of human life,” he said. “I congratulate Alex Schadenberg and all those who have played front burner leadership roles in all of this.”
Natalie Hudson Sonnen, executive director of LifeCanada, applauded the ruling and said they hope it is upheld if it goes to the Supreme Court. “The equality rights and life of the elderly and disabled must be protected in law,” she said. “Without the force of law behind them, these vulnerable members of our society will have no recourse when under pressure to end their lives.”
“Euthanasia or physician assisted suicide always undermines the duty of care that must be foremost in doctors’ minds,” she added.
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In her 395-page ruling, Justice Smith had argued that the ban on assisted suicide violates the equality provision in section 15 of Canada’s Charter because suicide is legal and the ban prevents the disabled from exercising this legal right by getting the help they may need to kill themselves.
She also argued that the ban violates the right to life under section 7 of the Charter because it could lead someone to commit suicide earlier than they might otherwise, while they are still physically able to do it themselves.
She issued a stay on the ruling for one year to give the government an opportunity to consider its options, but granted Taylor an immediate exemption from the law, allowing her to seek assisted suicide immediately if she chose. Taylor passed away Oct. 4, 2012 due to a severe infection from a perforated colon.
In their ruling today, the majority at the B.C. Court of Appeal said Justice Smith took the view that the Supreme Court of Canada had not taken adequate account of the right to life and equality provisions of the Charter. She also believed that the Supreme Court’s understanding of the “principles of fundamental justice” had evolved since the 1993 ruling.
But the majority found that she was bound to uphold the Rodriguez decision. They said the Supreme Court had considered the right to life, and that, though there has been an evolution in certain legal principles, there have been no "new" principles as she argued.
A review such as Justice Smith attempted in her ruling went “beyond the proper role of the court below and of this court,” they wrote. ‘If the constitutional validity of s. 241 of the Criminal Code is to be reviewed notwithstanding Rodriguez, it is for the Supreme Court of Canada to do so.”
Schadenberg said the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition will intervene at the Supreme Court of Canada should the case move there.
He also said they remain concerned about the situation in Quebec, where the government is advancing Bill 52 to legalize euthanasia “through the back door” by defining it as medical treatment.
But today’s ruling, he said, showed the Quebec bill, if passed, has no chance of survival. “If they pass Bill 52 in Quebec, it will likely end up in the courts, and if it ends up in the courts, they will lose,” he said.
The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) launched the Carter case in April 2011 claiming that Canada’s provisions against euthanasia and assisted suicide are unconstitutional since they violate the “right” to die.
The suit was launched on behalf of the family of Kay Carter, who died by assisted suicide at the Swiss Dignitas suicide center in January 2010. But Taylor was added as an additional plaintiff, allowing them to fast track the case because she had been told in January 2010 she only had a year to live.
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