VANCOUVER, October 26, 2012, ( – The federal government says that allowing physician-assisted suicide demeans the value of life and puts vulnerable people at risk of being persuaded to ask for death.

In documents filed Friday with the British Columbia Court of Appeal, Ottawa argues that the ban on assisted suicide exists to protect the most vulnerable members of society, those who are sick or elderly and persons with disabilities, and that allowing any form of assisted suicide creates the possibility that these people could be coerced to end their lives.

The Criminal Code, which prohibits the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, “is to protect the vulnerable, who might be induced in moments of weakness to commit suicide,” the government says in its 54-page legal argument, according to a Canadian press report. “And it is a reflection of the state’s policy that the inherent value of all human life should not be depreciated by allowing one person to take another’s life…It also discourages everyone, even the terminally ill, from choosing death over life.”

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The appeal follows the federal government’s statement that it will seek a reversal of the ruling of Justice Lynn Smith of the British Columbia Supreme Court in the case of Carter vs. Canada.

Justice Smith ruled that the ban against assisted suicide discriminates against the disabled and the terminally ill, because it prevents these people from getting the help they may need to kill themselves. Therefore, it runs afoul of the equality provisions in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


The federal government is also appealing Justice Smith’s decision to grant a constitutional exemption to one of the plaintiffs in this case, Gloria Taylor, to die by assisted suicide.

On August 10, Madam Justice Prowse of the province’s Court of Appeal refused a government request to stay the decision granting a constitutional exemption to Taylor.

However, Taylor died earlier this month without resorting to assisted suicide.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stated in a letter to Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition that he sought to appeal this refusal “as the government views this exemption as resembling a regulatory framework for assisted suicide.”

Minister Nicholson explained that the government maintains that the provisions prohibiting a medical professional, or anyone else, from counseling or providing assistance in a suicide are constitutionally valid.

Moreover, he pointed out that in 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation in the Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General) case.

In addition, Minister Nicholson noted that since the Rodriguez case, Parliament has examined the issue several times, most recently in April 2010, when a private member’s bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide was debated in the House of Commons and defeated by a vote of 228 to 59.

“On each of those occasions, Parliament concluded that the risks inherent in physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are too great,” the federal government argues in its appeal.

“Parliament does what it effectively can, within its constitutional authority, to prevent and discourage all suicides,” the document concludes.