Several cases that have been launched in British Columbia with the intent of striking down the laws that protect vulnerable people from euthanasia and assisted suicide by having those laws declared unconstitutional.
The Farewell Foundation:
In February 2011, the Farewell Foundation of BC applied for incorporation status as a group that would assist the suicides of its members. The Farewell Foundation was formed as a corporation based on the principles of the Dignitas suicide center in Switzerland.
The Farewell Foundation considers the assisted suicide act in Canada to be unconstitutional.
The Registrar of Companies rejected the Farewell Foundation’s application for incorporation based on the fact that they existed for the purpose of breaking the law.
On April 8, 2011, the Farewell Foundation challenged the rejection of incorporation status and suggested that the assisted suicide law (Section 241b of the criminal code) is unconstitutional and therefore is not binding on the Registrar of Companies.
The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA):
The BCCLA launched the Carter case on April 26, 2011 to strike down, as unconstitutional, Canada’s criminal code provisions that protect people, at the most vulnerable time of their life, from euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Carter case focused the family of Kay Carter who accompanied her when she died by assisted suicide at the Dignitas suicide center in Switzerland.
The claim stated that Kay Carter’s rights were violated by an unconstitutional law that prevented her from dying by euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada.
The claim also stated that Lee Carter (daughter) and Hollis Johnson (son-in-law) claim to have broken the law by aiding their mother by planning and possibly encouraging her to go to the Dignitas suicide center in Switzerland. Lee & Hollis are challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s laws that prevent euthanasia and assisted suicide because they could potentially be prosecuted under those laws.
The Carter case clearly intends to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada by challenging the constitutionality of Sections 14, 21, 22, 222, 241 of the criminal code.
Section 222 is the homicide provision in the criminal code. Euthanasia is a form of homicide because it is the act of actually causing the death of another person. It is very concerning when anyone challenges provisions of the homicide Act.
Section 241 is the assisted suicide Act in the criminal code. Assisted Suicide means to aid, abet (encourage) or counsel another person to commit suicide.
After several case management meetings where the Attorney General considered the Farewell Foundation case and the Carter case to be the same legal issue, where standing for the BCCLA and the Farewell Foundation were questioned and where it was suggested that the case lacked urgency. The BCCLA went back to the drawing board and amended their case.
On June 28, 2011; the BCCLA launched an amendment to the Carter case by adding Gloria Taylor (63) to the statement of claim. Taylor, who lives with ALS, claims that she would like to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide and the laws that prevent someone else from causing or aiding her death by euthanasia or assisted suicide are unconstitutional.
Taylor’s condition, as stated by the BCCLA, creates a greater level of urgency for the case because she may be entering the terminal phase of her condition.
The amendment to the case also asks the court to grant an exemption for Taylor and her doctor so that she can be killed by euthanasia or have her suicide assisted in a manner approved by the court.
To create even greater urgency to the case, the BCCLA has requested that if the court is not able to come to decision in a timely manner or grant Taylor an exemption to the law, that the court must pay all costs related to the case and the required care for Taylor.
From this point forward we will refer to the case as the Carter case.
The Carter case, if successful, would give doctors the right to directly and intentionally cause the death of another person by lethal injection and it would give doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses to their patients, knowing that their patient intends to commit suicide.
It is sad how this case uses the stories of people with chronic degenerative conditions and disabilities to remove protections in law that exist for vulnerable Canadians. People with disabilities are more likely to be steered toward assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Disability activist, Mark Pickup, (picture) from Alberta stated to EPC:
"the newspaper described Kay Carter (89) as a Right to die proponent. She developed spinal stenosis in 2008 which causes "pain, lack of coordination, numbness, loss of bladder and bowel control and paralysis." That was enough reason to overturn laws against assisted suicide? I disagree. I've had those very same symptoms (and many others) throughout my 27 year journey with multiple sclerosis. 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 emphasizes in their statement that euthanasia and assisted suicide would be limited to people who have voluntarily requested and consented to be killed.
Only parliament is able to devise rules to ensure that “safeguards” will be upheld in Canada. Where euthanasia and assisted suicide has been legalized in other jurisdictions safeguards have failed to protect people who did not consent or qualify for death by lethal injection.
When euthanasia was legalized in the Netherlands it was limited to people who were terminally ill and experiencing uncontrolled suffering. The most recent Euthanasia report includes as a category the deaths of people with dementia or Alzheimer disease. The Groningen Protocol was instituted in the Netherlands several years ago permitting death by lethal injection for infants with disabilities. It is estimated that 550 deaths occur each year in the Netherlands without request or consent and it is also estimated that 20% of all euthanasia deaths go unreported.
Recent studies concerning the practice of euthanasia in Belgium, where euthanasia became legal in 2003, shows that 32% of euthanasia deaths are done without request or consent and 47% of euthanasia deaths go unreported.
The safeguards in the State of Oregon that are promoted by the euthanasia lobby as being full-proof are illusory at best.
• The Oregon law does not require a witness at the time of death and the physician who prescribes the lethal dose is only present at the death about 20% of the time. If a person changes their mind or if the lethal dose is administered without consent, who would know?
• The Oregon statistics are invalid because the report comes from the physician who prescribes the lethal dose. The physician will not self-report abuse. The forms are submitted after the death. The information concerning the death is anecdotal at best because the physician is rarely present at the death.
The Euthanasia lobby insists that in Oregon, a physician only prescribes suicide based on the free choice of the patient.
Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, who had different forms of cancer, were offered assisted suicide by the Oregon Health Plan but denied treatment. We don’t want Canada’s universal health plan to steer people to suicide by offering assisted suicide or euthanasia as a “plan of treatment” to patients who are denied treatment.
When considering the scourge of elder abuse in Canada, the BCCLA should not be so sure that people will not be steered into an unwanted or unsuspecting death. Canadian statistics show that elder abuse is a growing problem with approximately 70% of all abuse being carried out by friends or family members. Elder abuse is often not reported because the victim is usually dependent on the abuser or believes that they have, in some way, caused the abuse or fear that, if reported, the abuse will become worse.
Elder abuse is often experienced as financial, psychological or physical abuse, but there have been cases of homicide. The Oregon assisted suicide statistics are consistent with the demographic that are most likely victims of elder abuse.
To give the power over life and death to another person, even a doctor, such as a law that legalizes euthanasia and assisted suicide, can be used by unscrupulous family members and medical care-givers as the ultimate form of elder abuse or to eliminate problem patients.
The Carter/Taylor factum states that a person who is “grievously and irremediably ill” only limited by the capacity to consent would be eligible to die by lethal dose.
The term, irremediably ill is not limited to a person with a terminal illness. This definition would include anyone with a terminal condition. Having a terminal condition does not make you terminally ill.
A person who has diabetes and is insulin dependent may qualify as irremediably ill.
Grievously ill would include most types of disability or chronic conditions. I have a friend with MS who is not terminally ill. He is very productive, but given different circumstances he could easily be considered grievously ill. I have another friend who has brain cancer, but is now in remission. He is well aware that the cancer is likely to return.
Another friend broke his back in two places 25 years ago in a vehicle accident. He lives with chronic pain, but he is not terminally ill. He has difficulty dealing with his pain when he is alone and feeling abandoned by the world. He is grievously ill and would be a candidate for euthanasia, especially when he is going through a difficult period.
The laws that prevent euthanasia and assisted suicide are designed to protect a person at the most vulnerable time of life. Society is already experiencing many pressures to control the cost of health care and people with disabilities and those with chronic conditions are already being made to feel like they are a burden on society.
Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, for any circumstance, does not grant new rights to the individual but rather it provides doctors with the right to directly and intentionally end your life and it removes the protections that exist in law for people at the most vulnerable time of their life.