Canada Court Considers Case to Legalize Assisted Suicide

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2011   |   5:33PM   |   Ottawa, Canada

The Supreme Court of British Columbia heard a case yesterday, Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada, that seeks to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

The bringers of the court case say that Kathleen (Kay) Carter achieved the kind of death at a Switzerland euthanasia clinic operated by Dignitas that Canadians should have the right to access. The lawsuit is challenging Criminal Code sanctions that make physician-assisted suicide illegal.

“The only regrettable aspect of the manner in which Ms. Carter ended her life was the fact that Ms. Carter was forced to end her life away from home and travel to Switzerland at great personal expense and hardship,” the lawsuit says. “Kay expressed concern that her conditions was rendering her trapped in her own body and stripped of her independence. … Kay expressed a desire to end her life in Canada, but was aware that assisting suicide is a criminal offence.”

The Farewell Foundation, one of several groups intervening in the case in support of those who want to legalize the practices and it says assisted suicide can be legalized in Canada without any problems — even though reports from Oregon show that is not the case.

In oral arguments on Wednesday, Tim Dickson, representing the Canadian Unitarian Council, said Canada’s laws against physician-assisted death “interfere with our autonomy over our bodies,” and impose slow, painful deaths on many Canadians.

But Euthanasia Prevention Coalition legal counsel, Hugh Scher said there is significant abuse of the elderly and disabled associated with assisted suicide.

“Concerns about safety, security and equality of people with disabilities and seniors will be central to the arguments advanced by EPC before the court, as will concerns about a harmful shift in our cultural ethic that will occur if assisted suicide is legalized,” he said.

Dr Will Johnston, of EPC, agreed, and said: “I see elder abuse in my practice, often perpetrated by family members and caregivers. A desire for money or an inheritance is typical. To make it worse, the victims protect the abusers. In one case, an older woman knew that her son was robbing her blind and lied to protect him.”

“Under current law, abusers take their victims to the bank and to the lawyer for a new will. With legal assisted suicide, the next stop would be the doctor’s office for a lethal prescription. How are we going to detect victimization when we can’t do it now?” he added.

Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the assisted suicide “issue was debated last year in parliament and consistent with earlier Senate Committee reports, parliament overwhelmingly defeated Bill C-384, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, by a vote of 228 to 59.”

Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and author who closely monitors end of life issues, also weighed in on the case.

“If assisted suicide advocates get their way, Canada will have suicide clinics in major cities the way it has Tim Horton coffee houses.  An amicus brief in the British (the fix is in) Columbia lawsuit to create a right to be made dead, looks to Switzerland as the model,” he said.

Smith adds: “Let’s examine the Swiss “model,” shall we? Here’s the thing, Switzerland–which outlaws the flushing of a live goldfish down the toilet–has become a pro suicide culture.  In fact, it is pure Kevorkianism because people travel to suicide clinics established there (“suicide tourism”), not to be treated by a doctor or palliated in their suffering, but solely to get access to a poisonous overdose.”

He concludes, “If Canada opens suicide clinics, it won’t be–nor do advocates want it to be–limited to the terminally ill. The very force of human logic will lead directly to assisted suicide on demand and euthanasia if someone can’t do the deed themselves–just as it has–and is doing–in Switzerland.”