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The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments October 15 in the final appeal of the Carter case, which seeks to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition was granted intervenor status in the Carter case from its beginning at both the lower court in British Columbia and at the BC Court of Appeal, and will again present arguments before the Supreme Court.

Alex Schadenberg, the group’s executive director, said their arguments will focus on the position that laws prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide are protective and not discriminatory; that there is reliable evidence that safeguards in other jurisdictions have been abused; that legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide diminishes autonomy by empowering doctors to end the lives of patients at the most vulnerable time of their lives; that euthanasia and assisted suicide are not a form of healthcare; and that issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide are properly decided by Parliament and not the courts.

“The EPC is hoping that the Supreme Court will follow the May 2013 Irish Supreme Court decision, in the Fleming case where the Irish court upheld the laws protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide using similar evidence,” Schadenberg said.

EPC legal counsel Hugh Scher said that crucial to the argument is concern 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 the Criminal Code.

The Carter euthanasia case has worked its way through the courts since 2012 when Justice Lynn Smith in British Columbia struck down the prohibition against assisted suicide, arguing that since suicide is technically legal in Canada, the ban on assisted suicide is “unconstitutional.”

The law, she argued, prevents the disabled from getting the help they may need to kill themselves.

The decision was appealed successfully by the Conservative federal government last October. That decision was appealed by the BC Civil Liberties Association to the Supreme Court of Canada.

If the Supreme Court finds in favor of euthanasia and assisted suicide, it will have to reverse its 1993 decision in the Rodriguez case, in which it ruled 5-4 that the state has a “fundamental interest in protecting human life” and an obligation to “protect the vulnerable.”

Dr. Will Johnston, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s British Columbia chair, pointed out that what the Supreme Court of Canada will consider is in fact an issue of public safety.

“The Court rejected assisted suicide in 1993 and prevented Canada from taking a wrong turn,” Johnston said.

“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 and our ability to control symptoms continues to improve.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has warned repeatedly that in jurisdictions such as Belgium and the Netherlands where euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalized, there have been significant abuses of vulnerable people.

For example, a study in Belgium found that 32 percent of the people killed under the Belgian euthanasia law were killed without request, which was a breach of a fundamental condition of that law. Not one of these doctors has been prosecuted.

Theo Boer, a professor of ethics in Netherlands — who formerly supported the push to legalize euthanasia — is now warning countries to avoid making his country’s mistake.

“Various safeguards were put in place to show who should qualify and doctors acting in accordance with these safeguards would not be prosecuted,” he wrote in a July letter to the British media. “But we were wrong – terribly wrong, in fact.”

Boer highlighted the “explosive increase” in euthanasia deaths since 2001. He noted the “shift” regarding who became eligible to be euthanized, a list that grew to include the “aged, lonely or bereaved.” He pointed out how public opinion went from viewing euthanasia as an “exception” to having it be considered an enshrined right, “with corresponding duties on doctors to act.”

“I used to be a supporter of [euthanasia] legislation. But now, with twelve years of experience, I take a different view,” he said. “Don’t go there. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely to ever go back in again.”

Dr. Johnston concluded, “Let us hope that by clarifying the issues, the Supreme Court once again confirms the 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.”


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