Justice Minister Rob Nicholson appeals ruling allowing physician-assisted suicide
The Conservative government is appealing a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on physician-assisted suicide.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson issued the following statement concerning the ruling Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson et al. v. Attorney General of Canada:
After careful consideration of the legal merits of the June 15, 2012 ruling from the British Columbia Supreme Court, the Government of Canada will appeal the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and will seek a stay of all aspects of the lower court decision.
The Government is of the view that the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit medical professionals, or anyone else, from counselling or providing assistance in a suicide, are constitutionally valid.
The Government also objects to the lower court's decision to grant a "constitutional exemption" resembling a regulatory framework for assisted suicide.
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. The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation in Rodriguez (1993).
In April 2010, a large majority of Parliamentarians voted not to change these laws, which is an expression of democratic will on this topic. It is an emotional and divisive issue for many Canadians.
The Government of Canada will provide its full position before the British Columbia Court of Appeal when the matter is heard. As the matter continues to be before the court, the Government will not comment further.
Following Nicholson's announcement, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association issued a news release characterizing things this way: "The federal government has announced that they have assigned government lawyers to try to prevent seriously and incurably ill Canadians from seeking the assistance of a physician in a medically assisted death."
The BCCLA pointed out that the court ruling concluded that the ban on physician-assisted suicide "violated the rights of the seriously and incurably ill to a death with dignity".
Justice Smith ruled that one of the plaintiffs, BCCLA-represented Gloria Taylor, could seek a doctor's help in ending her life as she suffers from an incurable neurodegenerative disease—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Nicholson also wants that part of the ruling overturned.
“We are extremely disappointed in the government’s decision to appeal this case,” BCCLA president Lindsay Lyster said. “The court was clear that the existing laws violate the rights of the seriously and incurably ill. For the government to waste limited public resources to prevent Gloria Taylor and other seriously and incurably ill Canadians from accessing a physician’s help in dying is absurd."