Ottawa to appeal B.C. court's doctor-assisted suicide ruling
Published Friday, July 13, 2012 1:28PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 14, 2012 10:28AM EDT
The federal government announced Friday it will appeal last month’s British Columbia court ruling that struck down Canada’s laws banning doctor-assisted suicides.
Attorney General Rob Nicholson says the government believes that the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit medical professionals and others from providing assistance in a suicide are constitutionally valid.
“The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities,” he said in a statement.
He said the government would provide its full position on the matter to the B.C. Court of Appeal, and that since the matter continues to be before the court, would not comment further.
Last month’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling centred around Gloria Taylor, a 64-year-old grandmother who suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. She is confined to a wheelchair, requires a feeding tube, and wanted assurance from the courts that when she is ready to end her life, those who help her do so would be not be criminally charged.
After hearing from all sides on the matter, Justice Lynn Smith issued a 395-page ruling. She agreed with Taylor and the other plaintiffs that the provisions in the Criminal Code that ban physician-assisted suicide ban were invalid, because they infringed on Taylor's Charter of Rights-guaranteed rights to life, liberty and security of persons.
Smith said the laws were discriminatory for those who were grievously ill or physically disabled and wanted to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives.
The judge also said that while she recognized that risks do exist in allowing doctor-assisted suicide, they can be avoided through vigorously monitored safeguards.
The ruling was suspended for one year to give Parliament time to re-write the legislation, but Taylor was granted an exemption, so that she could seek an assisted suicide within the year.
While many cheered the ruling, a doctor with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition called it alarming and said it would put vulnerable patients in danger.
CTV’s legal analyst Steven Skurka predicted after the June ruling that the case would likely be appealed all the way to the nation's highest court.
"It has such national importance, it has to go the Supreme Court of Canada. The losing side will inevitably appeal," he said.