Monday, October 14, 2013

BC Court of Appeal upholds protections in law from euthanasia and assisted suicide. The Supreme Court of Canada is next.

By Alex Schadenberg, executive director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

On Thursday, October 10; the British Columbia (BC) Court of Appeal upheld Canada’s laws prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide, in a 2 to 1 decision by overturneding the disturbing lower court decision in 2012 by Justice Smith in the Carter case.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), who intervened in the Carter case, applauded the BC Court of Appeal decision by stating:
“EPC is pleased that the Court has followed the lead of Canadian Parliament, the Supreme Court of Canada, and of the majority of Parliaments and Supreme Courts around the world in finding that the prohibitions against assisted suicide represent an important protection against abuse of vulnerable people.
The Carter case, was launched by the family of Kay Carter, a woman who died by assisted suicide in 2010 in Switzerland. The Carter family claimed that Kay was denied the “right” to die with dignity in Canada and her family were forced to break the law by assisting her travel to Switzerland for suicide. The BC Civil Liberties Association represented the Carter family.

On June 15, 2012, Justice Smith wrongly decided that Canada’s assisted suicide law was unconstitutional. Smith found that people with disabilities who are unable to kill themselves by suicide without assistance were discriminated by the law. 

Smith also decided that “safeguards” can effectively protect vulnerable people. Smith gave parliament one year to pass a law allowing assisted suicide and a limited form of euthanasia in Canada.

Fortunately, the federal government appealed the decision of Justice Smith to the BC Court of Appeal.

The BC Court of Appeal found that Smith did not have the right to strike down Canada’s assisted suicide law and that she made several errors and incorrect assumptions in her decision.

The BC Court of Appeal stated that Smith was wrong when she found that the circumstances had sufficiently changed since 1993, giving her the right to strike down the 1993 Rodriguez decision.

In 1993, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Canada’s assisted suicide law in the Rodriguez case, a case that was based on Sue Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who was living with ALS, petitioned the courts to grant her the right to die by assisted suicide.

The BC Court of Appeal also found that Smith was wrong when she assumed that the Rodriguez decision did not consider certain constitutional analysis. The BC Court of Appeal concluded that only the Supreme Court of Canada has the right to overturn its decisions.

The BC Court of Appeal decision challenged Smith’s assertion that Canada’s assisted suicide law discriminates against people with disabilities. The majority stated that:
“those who have only a limited ability to enjoy life are not less alive and have no less a right to life, than able-bodied and fully competent persons.
EPC was pleased that the BC Court of Appeal recognized that Canada’s laws prohibiting assisted suicide meet the legislative objective that is grounded in respect for and the desire to protect human life and the current assisted suicide law is rationally connected to its purpose.

The BC Court of Appeal also acknowledged that parliament had recently considered a bill (Bill C-384) that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. On April 21, 2010, parliament overwhelmingly defeated Bill C-384 by a vote of 228 to 59.

The BC Civil Liberties Association announced that it will appeal the BC Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) will seek to intervene, if the Supreme Court of Canada decides to hear the Carter case.


Laws that prohibit euthanasia and/or assisted suicide provide equal protection in law for all people and uphold the safety of all people, in every life conditions, from having their life taken from them.

Dr. Will Johnston, the EPC - BC chair talks about the Carter Case after the BC Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision by upholding Canada's laws protecting Canadians from euthanasia and assisted suicide. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfoA71TGTf0&feature=youtu.be


Links to other similar articles.
EPC applauds BC Court of Appeal ruling  in assisted suicide case.
Irish Supreme Court upholds protections in law from assisted suicide using similar evidence as in the Carter case.
EPC wants BC Court of Appeal to reverse errors by the lower court in Carter case.

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