Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Protecting the vulnerable still the goal, says government lawyer in B.C. assisted suicide case.

The Toronto Star reported on the first day of the BC Court of Appeal hearing of the Carter case, the case that seeks to legalize assisted suicide and a limited form of euthanasia in Canada.

The article was written by Petti Fong and published in the Toronto Star on March 18, 2013.

Protecting the vulnerable still the goal, says government lawyer.

Petti Fong - March 18, Toronto Star, Vancouver

Audrey Laferriere doesn’t understand all the legal arguments being heard in B.C.’s highest court over Canada’s assisted suicide laws but she said Monday she’s worried enough that she wanted to come and listen.
“I’m interested in the court case because it’s about security of persons and security of life,” said Laferriere. “I’m not religious but we have the right as Canadian citizens that we have security of persons and no one can come and just end your life.”
Laferriere, 70, has a spouse with depression whom, she fears, might one day find a physician to help him have an assisted suicide. She said she’s against any changes to Canadian laws that will allow that.

The federal government is arguing in the B.C. Court of Appeal that a lower court decision last summer, which found Canadian assisted suicide laws unconstitutional, should remain as law.

Averting all harmful deaths was the objective of the last Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the matter, according to Donnaree Nygard, the lead counsel for the Attorney General of Canada.
“Minimizing the risk of vulnerable individuals to being induced to commit suicide,” was the goal of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1993, said Nygard. “The goal was avoiding the harm caused that some lives are less worthy of protection.”
In the 1990s, Sue Rodriguez, of Victoria, fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to have an assisted suicide, but it ruled in 1993 by a vote of 5-4 that the law should remain.

A year later, Rodriguez, who had ALS, died after getting help committing suicide from an unknown physician.

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling last June found section 241 of the Criminal Code, which makes it illegal for anyone to counsel a person to commit suicide, violated the Charter rights of people with disabilities.

The lead plaintiff in the challenge to the current laws, Gloria Taylor, a woman who, like Rodriguez, was diagnosed with ALS, was given the first constitutional exemption to have a physician-assisted suicide. Taylor, however, died last October in hospital without the help of a physician after getting an unexpected infection.

Her case, brought on her behalf by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, is being appealed by the federal and provincial government in the Court of Appeal.

Nygard told the judges Monday the issue has been debated and considered by Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada, and the decision has always been that the rights of vulnerable people outweigh the rights of those wanting physician-assisted suicide.

The case will be heard this week with the B.C. Civil Liberties expected to make their arguments on Wednesday. Groups including the Farewell Foundation, which is for assisted-suicide and the Alliance of People with Disabilities, which is for maintaining the current laws, will also be making submissions.

Previous articles.
* Legalizing assisted suicide creates a double standard.
* EPC wants BC Court of Appeal to reverse errors in assisted suicide court decision.
* Suicide Prevention for All. No Assisted Suicide.
* Euthanasia at the water cooler.

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