Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BC Judge fast-tracks euthanasia and assisted suicide case in Canada

On August 4, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) reacted to the decision by Justice Lynn Smith, to fast-track the (Carter/Taylor) case which challenges Canada's laws that protect vulnerable people from euthanasia and assisted suicide. This update provides further information.

Justice Smith, agreed to fast-track a challenge to Canada’s euthanasia and assisted suicide laws by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) who are representing Gloria Taylor and the family of Kay Carter, the (Carter/Taylor) case. The case will be heard starting on November 15, 2011.

Last year, Canada’s parliament rejected Bill C-384 that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide by a vote of 228 to 59. After losing the political debate, the right to die lobby is bringing their demand for legalized killing to the courts.

The BCCLA claims that euthanasia and assisted suicide can be legalized with strict safeguards.

A study, published in the CMAJ (May 2010) found that 32% of the euthanasia deaths in Belgium were done without request or consent. Another study published in the BMJ (Oct 2010) found that only 52.8% of the euthanasia deaths in Belgium were reported.

In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, the overall suicide rate has climbed since 2000 and is now 35% higher than the national average. At the same time people, such as Barbara Wagner & Randy Stroup, who were denied medical treatment by the Oregon Health plan have been steered to accept assisted suicide.

The BCCLA launched the Carter case in April, 2011 claiming that Canada’s criminal code provisions that protect people, at the most vulnerable time of their life, from euthanasia and assisted suicide were unconstitutional.

The Carter case concerns the family of Kay Carter who accompanied their mother to Switzerland when she died by assisted suicide at the Dignitas suicide center.

The claim states that Kay Carter’s rights were violated by a law that prevented her from dying by euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada. The claim also states that Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson broke the law by aiding, planning and possibly encouraging their mother to go to the Dignitas suicide center. Lee & Hollis stated that they could potentially be prosecuted by Canada’s assisted suicide law, that they consider to be unconstitutional.

The Carter/Taylor case is asking the court to legalize assisted suicide and what they refer to as “Consensual Physician-Assisted Death” (euthanasia). Consensual Physician-Assisted Death is defined as: the administration of medication or other treatment that intentionally brings about a patient’s death by the act of a medical practitioner. This definition means that they are asking the court to legalize euthanasia by consent.

The Carter/Taylor claim uses confusing definitions. It states: For the purpose of this claim, “physician assisted suicide” and “consensual physician-assisted death” will be defined as “physician-assisted death.” The media continues to refer to “physician-assisted death” as assisted suicide.

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, says that she wants to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide and the laws that prevent her from dying in this way are unconstitutional.

Taylor’s condition, as stated by the BCCLA, created a greater level of urgency for the case which was the reason that Justice Smith agreed to fast-track the case.

Taylor demanded that if the court could not make a timely decision that it should exempt Taylor and her doctor so that she could be killed by euthanasia or assisted suicide in a manner approved by the court.

To create even greater urgency to the case, the BCCLA demanded that if the court is not able to make a timely decision, that the court must pay all costs related to the case and the required care for Taylor.

In the meantime, “the Farewell Foundation case”, that is also attempting to legalize assisted suicide through the court, may go into legal limbo or be joined to the Carter/Taylor case.

The Carter/Taylor is a serious attempt to strike down Canada’s laws that protect its vulnerable citizens from euthanasia and assisted suicide.

EPC is seeking intervention status in the BCCLA (Carter/Taylor) court case. Our intervention application will decided by the Court this October.

Donations can be made to help EPC intervene in the Carter/Taylor case at: Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Box 25033 London Ontario N6C 6A8 or online at:

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