Editor’s note. This appeared on the blog of Alex Schadenberg, executive editor of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
The Vancouver Sun reported that the case by the Farewell Foundation, a group in BC that is trying to legalize assisted suicide, was thrown-out by Justice Lynn Smith. The Farewell Foundation was attempting to legalize “Swiss style” assisted suicide in Canada, which means that they wanted the law to allow doctors and other people to be able to assist a suicide. A couple of weeks ago, Justice Smith fast-tracked the case by the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).
The BCCLA is representing the family of Kay Carter, who died by assisted suicide at the Dignitas suicide center in January 2010, and Gloria Taylor, who lives with ALS. The BCCLA case is attempting to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, via the court, in Canada Laura Kane, who wrote the article for the Vancouver Sun stated:
Justice Lynn Smith ruled the foundation did not have a strong enough case to challenge the law, saying anonymous members of the group must identify themselves in order to prove the law directly affects them. However, Smith invited the group to apply to intervene in a parallel right-to-die case led by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. The Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die had argued that the law against assisting suicide — which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison — violates its members’ right to die with dignity in the future. Of the group’s 117 members, only five were identified as plaintiffs in the case. One of the plaintiffs committed suicide in July. Donnaree Nygard, lawyer for the federal attorney-general, argued the case was “hypothetical” because the plaintiffs were not facing criminal charges for assisted suicide. Farewell Foundation lawyer Jason Gratl said the group attempted something new by challenging a law on behalf of anonymous members, and was unsuccessful. “Ju
stice Smith found that if the Farewell Foundation wished to bring a constitutional challenge, the members whose health is deteriorating must identify themselves,” he said.
Russel Ogden, a founding director of the Farewell Foundation, said he was encouraged by the invitation to intervene by Smith, who is also overseeing the BCCLA case. “I would compare it to someone in a race who knocks over a hurdle,” Ogden said. “It hurts a bit, you lose a few seconds, but you’re still in the race. You don’t give up.” If its application to intervene is approved by the court, the foundation would be able to advance many of the same arguments it would have presented in its challenge to the Criminal Code, Ogden said. A party with intervener status may introduce evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
The BCCLA-led case was recently fast-tracked due to the failing health of plaintiff Gloria Taylor, 63, suffering from late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The trial is set to begin Nov. 15. The case proposes a medical model that restricts the assisted-suicide procedure to medical professionals. The Farewell Foundation, on the other hand, advocates the Swiss model, in which right-to-die organizations oversee the procedure. “Many of our members do not see this as a medical procedure, and do not want it to occur in a clinical setting,” Ogden said.
Last year the Parliament of Canada rejected Bill C-384 that was sponsored by Francine Lalonde (BQ) which would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide, by a vote of 228 to 59. Since then an all-party committee of members of parliament have been working on a report to suggest ways that Canada needs to improve its care in the areas of: Palliative Care, Suicide Prevention, Elder Abuse and Disability issues.
The Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care will release their report in November 2011. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is seeking intervener status in the BCCLA case.
EPC expected that the Farewell Foundation case would be thrown out because it lacked standing in relation to how serious it is to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Farewell Foundation case attempted to legalize, “Swiss style” assisted suicide while the BCCLA (Carter/Taylor) case is attempting to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide via the court. The EPC recognizes that the laws that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable time of their life. The EPC rejects the concept that it is necessary to legalize euthanasia and/or assisted suicide in order to ensure a “death with dignity”.
EPC also understands that societal attitudes will lead to people with disabilities being steered towards death by euthanasia and elders who are vulnerable or being abused by family members or care-givers will be subtly pressured to die. These people will not “freely choose” but rather they will be coerced into dying by others who the person has been manipulated by and who that elderly person is dependent upon.