The federal government appeals BC’s assisted suicide ruling

by Aaron Wherry

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announces an appeal of the British Columbia Supreme Court’s ruling on assisted suicide.

“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.”

Mr. Nicholson’s mention of a vote in April 2010 is presumably a reference to Francine Lalonde’s private member’s bill, which was defeated 230-57.




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The federal government appeals BC’s assisted suicide ruling

  1. Harper’s ninny-state….where religion determines everything.

    • Religion? Really, is that what it is about? Hmmm, that must be why Jean Chretien, a strict Catholic didn’t legalize it in 1994 when Svend Robinson was involved in the Sue Rodriquez case. Good to know. Thanks Emily.

      • No, Chretien never let religion stand in the way….Canada has both abortion and gay marriage.

        • …Shock of shocks, 6 years after Harpers in power…that religious ninny…both gay marriage and abortion are still here. However, you still haven’t explained why Chretien didn’t legalize physician assisted suicide in 1994.

          • Yup, and he still opposes them, but he knows better than to start with such things.

            As to Chretien…..he didn’t have the power to do so.

          • Chretien didn’t have the power to do it but Harper does? How so?

          • Who’s making the appeal?

          • I am not arguing that Harper wants it dealt with on a National level. You are arguing that Chretien could not have dealt with it. I disagree.

          • Disagreeing is pretty much all you ever do. The subject is apparently irrelevant.

          • …and pointing out the supposed personal flaws of your opponent is what you do, Emily when you have no credible argument. You still have not given one reason why Chretien did not pass a law legalizing assisted-suicide when he decimated the Conservative party and they held only three seats.

          • I point out the flaws in your constant random disagreements.

            A PM can’t ‘pass a law’…or make unilateral decisions. Such things have to go through Parliament, or through the courts.

            The court ruled against SR….so no law was changed. There was nothing Chretien could do about it….assuming he wanted to….but religion wouldn’t have stopped him as we know from everything else that happened on his watch.

            The court has now ruled in favour…..all Harp has to do is keep quiet, but instead he is appealing.

          • Chretien could have proposed a bill in parliament where laws are made. He had an overwhelming majority. Cut the BS.
            I am not saying anything about Harper. I fully admit, he has no inclination to see this law come to fruition but YOU cannot admit that Jean Chretien could have passed a bill legalizing assisted suicide and he didn’t have the bullocks to do it OR perhaps he didn’t believe in it.
            This is no “random” disagreement on my part. You are sooo anti-Harper, you can’t admit that he isn’t any different than any of the Canadian PMs that came before him. No one of them took it on.

          • Govts are unlikely to argue for a citizen’s right to kill themselves..

            You’re just arguing to argue.

            PS….a bullock is a steer. Some cowgirl YOU are! LOL

            Perhaps you meant the Brit expression ‘bollocks’….which means ‘balls’.

          • Now you are going to get petty with pointing out typo’s. tisk tisk Emily.

          • Actually I enjoyed it….matched the rest of your argument.

  2. Ah…progressives…who can’t bear to execute Clifford Olson or Paul Bernardo, but find it easy to execute grandma, rather than provide her with adequate palliative care.

    No capital punishment for murderers, but capital punishment for vulnerable old people.

    • Come back when you know something about the subject

    • “Executing Grandma” has nothing to do with it. If, after being provided with as many options as possible – pallitative care being one of them – Grandma still wants to die, then Grandma should be allowed to die. I simply don’t understand the downside to legalizing assisted suicide. (suicide in general, actually, but that’s a different can of worms)
      Is it the vauguely put “potential for abuse” I always hear about? If so, there’s ALWAYS potential for abuse, in anything. I’m sure patients in general are often abused by medical staff; does that mean we shouldn’t have hospitals in the first place? Of course not. Big picture, folks; consider the big picture.

      • You are “sure paitents in general are often abused by medical staff”. Is this something you have statistics on or is it something you just came to on your own? As for legally-assisted suicide, it isn’t a clear cut easy thing. You have to find physicians who are comfortable with assisting people to die. I don’t think you can mandate someone to do that job…it isn’t what they went to medical school for…they went to save people’s lives, not end them.
        As for legalizing suicide….if all the people who ended their lives were thinking rationally and you could be garanteed that their families would regret the action or hold the government or healthcare responsible, perhaps it would be legalized. However, the truth of the matter is far different. People who commit suicide are often severely depressed and their families and friends are devasted by their deaths. They experience feelings of severe guilt and have a tendency to blame everyone who they perceived failed the person during their lifetime, which inevitably involves the healthcare system. Therefore, in order to intervene in a mentally ill person’s attempt to commit suicide, it remains against the law.
        As for your dismissing the claims of “potential for abuse” regarding assisted-sucicide, the problem is that these claims come from groups of disabled people concerned that they will be “targeted for death” by individuals concerned that they can’t lead a full life and therefore must be suffering. They have a loud and plausible lobby especially since Robert Latimer ended his severely disabled daughter’s life.
        .

    • Mentioning the likes of Bernardo and Olson in the context of this topic is asinine and utterly irrelevant. What gives you the arrogance to question the motives of others who choose to exercise some control over the timing, terms, and conditions in which their life comes to an end?

      • He’s a Conservative.

        • I’m opposed to the state killing people or sanctioning the killing of people, where it be murderers or old people in need of palliative care and mental health counselling.

          A person who wants to kill themselves needs mental health counselling, not someone to “pull-the-trigger”.

          • You oppose choice and free will for others….and insist others believe and act as you do….it’s as simple as that.

          • So your view of ‘sanity’ is to not even think about ending your life upon your own terms, and instead to submit to a form of unrelenting torture until a more distant, but absolutely certain end.
            Funny, I’d think the opposite.

          • No. I oppose state sanctioned killing or assisted-killing. The state’s role is to provide the necessary mental health counselling and palliative care.

            The state sanction of assisted suicide and euthanasia harms far more people than it helps. It puts stress on the disabled and the seriously ill that society prefers them gone rather than to provide necessary health care.

            The needs of the many outweigh helping a mentally-duressed individual kill themself.

          • i.e. If putting up a poster of a scanitlly clad women creates a hostile work environment for women, doesn’t the state sanction of euthanasia or assisted-killing create a hostile society for the disabled and the seriously ill.

          • People who would benefit from mental health counselling would be someone who was irrational about their want to commit suicide. In other words if they were mentally well, not depressed or psychotic, they would likely chose to live.
            In the case of a terminally ill person who is facing months, perhaps even longer of suffering, it hard would be hard to prove that their desire to avoid the suffering is irrational. With an illness like ALS, they lose all ability to move and even swallow.
            Palliative care is really only offered in the few weeks right before death is expected to occur so again a person with ALS is looking at a long time of suffering leading to death. As I said in another post, a person always maintains the right to refuse treatment of any kind. No one can force you to take nourishment or medicine if you are not inclined to do so and you are rational. Asking a physician to be an active participant in your death is a whole different matter.

          • “A person who wants to kill themselves needs mental health counselling, not someone to “pull-the-trigger”.”

            And you know this how?

        • I am a conservative but I am not apposed to people determining their own time to die when they are terminally ill. I certainly do “get” that people have concerns with it. I don’t think people realize that any patient has the right to refuse treatment at any time. You can refuse to take medications that prolong your life; refuse to take food and water, etc. Chances are in the case of a person with ALS, she would not be found mentally incompetent and she would be allowed to follow through with her wishes not to accept treatment. The problem is in asking a physician to give you something that will result in your immnient death. Actively ending a life is not something they are trained to do. Alot of them won’t be comfortable with it.

          • I agree with you. Except I can easily put myself in the position where I’d ask for a nice little pill that will put me to sleep to never wake up. I cannot see myself, no matter how much I want to end my suffering, refusing a glass of water when I’m literally dying of thirst.

          • In this time when families are sooo critical of physicians, I am not sure how many would we willing to give you a “little pill” to put you to sleep so you never wake up. You are asking alot of a healthcare provider to actively participate in ending your life at a time when there is more mistrust of the profession than there has ever been. You just need to look at the whole anti-vaccination movement and goodness, read the Globe and Mail…there is a whole faction completely skeptical about using sunscreen on their children. No one takes the word of a physician anymore. Everyone is doubting that they have anyone’s best interest at heart. The complaints to the colleges are going through the roof. People are certain physicians are keeping foreign physicians from practicing in the country. Would you as a physician trust that you would be supported if you went into the assisted-suicide business?

          • Well, I’d get it in writing from the family members, and the ill person, of course. But I hear what you’re saying. However, there ARE doctors out there who, in certain circumstances, would do this. I don’t mean put an ad in the paper or something silly. And every situation is unique, so I think it is fairly right that this not be that easy. But impossible? That seems wrong to me.
            Seriously, I do not want to live through the four or six weeks my mother had to endure once hope was gone. She’d written on her POAs, her Will, and a separate letter to her doctor not to prolong her life. We all knew her wishes. But to see “not prolong” as opposed to “ending it” was heartbreaking.

          • I think you and your family are a special case in many ways. Many families are NOT all on the same page. Death can happen very quickly if a patient is NOT in hospital; NOT on an IV and given enough pain medication to control pain. Things like thirst don’t come into play and if you aren’t getting fluids, the body shuts down fairly quickly. If a person is really thirsty they can have fluid through a hyperdermic needle under the skin. This is the kind of care that they would give at a hospice or it can be given at home.
            I am sure there are physicians out there who have that great level of compassion and bravery to take this on. I just think with the current level of skepticisim and lack of respect people treat physicians, I would be very worried for them. That is just my feeling. Honestly, how to people go from “Ya, I don’t trust you because you are all shills for the pharmaceutical companies and you make way too much money BUT can you help my mother who has terminal cancer die? Oh and if your late for the appointment, I’ll be reporting you to your college.”

          • I can also see the potential for abuse. It most definitely is a real concern. I just think we can minimize it virtually out of existence if we all tried. If this didn’t somehow become a money-making scheme, I mean.

  3. I want the choice, not have the choice made me. My family has been made fully aware that in the event catastrophic illness, I choose death as opposed to living long and putting burden on our society and other family members. The older I get, the more entrenched I am in that opinion. To me, life is not worth living if it is not lived well.

    • What you are describing is a living will. You are asking for no heroic measures and possibly no active treatment, only comfort measures. That is not the same thing as physician assisted suicide. In physician assisted suicide, you would be asking the physician to give you something to stop your life. This is far different than witholding treatments that prolong life or giving pain medication that may, as a side-effect, cause respiratory depression and cause you to die sooner than you otherwise would.

  4. Although I wish it weren’t so, I expect the Harper government to win this one. I can’t really think the National Supreme Court will allow a “constitutional exemption” to be created by a provincial court. I mean, is there a precedent for such a thing? But what also struck me was that the British Columbia Supreme Court isn’t the last court in British Columbia. There’s a court of appeal above Supreme still within that province? Strikes me as bizarre. Are all the provinces like that?

    • Is this really Jenn? Or are you joking?

      • Sorry, am I being stupid?
        I get like that. It’s really me. Please tell me where I went wrong.

        • I think you are totally right Jenn. I don’t politics has ANY place in this question of medical assisted suicide. Having said that, I think only one country sanctions it…Switzerland? This is a HUGE hot potato. Groups that champion the rights of the disabled are totally against it. Why? They feel it will be a slippy slope to euthanasia. Disabled people who cannot communicate will be targeted as “suffering” by family and the families will be able to petition physicians to end the disabled person’s life. They also argue that with the availability of hospice care where no one needs to be in pain, there is no need for physicians to help patients die.
          Other people have grave doubts as well (pardon the pun). They worry they will change their minds and it will be too late. I think you are right, this won’t fly.

          • Emily, you are so paranoid about Canadian doctors that you are sure they are running some monopoly to keep foreign competition out of the country. I am sure they would just jump at the chance to have your family pointing the finger at them for helping you end your life….NOT. Do yourself a favor and plan a trip to Switzerland.

          • It’s simple job-protection….everyone does it unless it’s illegal….which it should be.

            Now find out about euthanasia and stop with the fantasies, red herrings and diversions about Chretien.

          • We’ll see.

          • We’ll see….what?

          • Check out the Canadian Medical Association’s position on physician-assisted-suicide. They have come out against it. They point out problems in Holland and Oregon. No fantasies, no red herrings. It isn’t just about something so simplistic as “job protection”, no matter how much you admonish me.

          • The CMA’s position changes depending on the times, and their ‘position’ is irrelevant anyway.

            Other countries manage to do this, so I fail to see why Canadians are considered too stupid to do so.

            And in any case we both know that people are already assisted in dying every day both in and out of hospitals…..and that because we have no regulations….some of the methods are less than pleasant. There’s an uproar going on in the UK right now about the elderly routinely being starved and dehydrated to ‘free up beds’ quicker.

            Makes much more sense to go to a clinic, have it explained, sign a contract and show up for a ‘fatal drink’ when you choose to do so.

            PS…..the ‘job protection’ has nothing whatever to do with this topic. It has to do with keeping foreign doctors out of Canada as much as possible.

          • The position of the CMA has not changed. The position of the CMA is relevant if you expect physicians to participate in assisted suicide. If you want to legalize assisted suicide and leave physicians out of it, then their position is irrelevant. As for your suggestion that patients are being starved and dehydrated against their own specific wishes, that would be against the law as it would be a form of murder. However, should a patient who is rational refuse food and hydration that is ultimately the right of the patient.
            Given that the tools for actively taking ones life are quite readily available, a physician is not really necessary to the process so I am not sure why you think it would require attending a clinic and ‘drinking a fatal drink’. Families and friends of the person should be able to assist if assisted suicide became legal.

          • You are possibly the most confused person on this site!

            You have now mangled the issue so much I doubt even you understand yourself. So let’s review.

            a) The CMA changes it’s position on everything….at one time they opposed birth control….so they can just as easily change position on assisted suicide.

            b) Physicians help patients in this way every day in spite of what the CMA says officially.

            c) Gee, starving people is illegal….no kidding. Happens anyway.

            d) Tools for suicide are not readily available….many people don’t know what to do…..or decide on suicide when it’s too late to physically do so.

            e) The clinic I spoke about with a ‘fatal drink’
            is in Switzerland….the one you claimed to know all about.

            The point is that suicide, assisted suicide, and outright murder…..compassionate or cruel…. takes place around us every day….both in and out of hospital….because we refuse to regulate it

            Perhaps we could grow up, dump the religious bosh, and deal with it in a serious way.

          • I don’t think I can converse with you anymore. Nothing you are claiming makes any sense. Physicians and other healthcare workers get paid NO MATTER WHO IS IN THE BEDS in a socialist healthcare system so there is NO impetus to starve or dehydrate (murder) patients to free-up beds.
            I find your claims both offensive and ridiculous.

    • It won’t so much as creating a provinical exemption as revisiting the law as laid down in the Sue Rogriguez case. It is rare for the supreme court to reverse itself but not impossible.

  5. Progressives have taught us that a patient cannot give (legally recognizable) consent to their doctor to have sexual relations with their doctor. How then can a patient give consent for their doctor to be allowed to kill or assist in their killing.

    Your doctor can’t have sex with you, but your doctor can kill you. Consent is not recognized as possible in the former, but people seem to think consent is recognizable in the latter.

    It is just not the state’s business to sanction the killing of people. The role of the state is to provide necessary mental health services to those wanting to kill themselves, and proper palliative care, if it is required.

  6. All the concerns about abuse of assisted suicide and similar concerns are purely fictional. They can easily be prevented by requiring that anyone considering assisted suicide must be terminally ill, in advanced stages of that illness and experience extreme discomfort as a result, all assessed by one or more qualified physicians. It would also be a requirement that the patient is of sound mind when making the decision and that there is no evidence of duress. With those requirements, it is difficult to see any problems, other than the inherent difficulty of making such a choice and its impact on ones family. But that’s something those involved have to think about; its not something the government should get involved in. It is ironic that it is the government of “personal choice”, “limited government”, and “individual responsibility” that is most eager to control peoples lives at every corner.

    • Tim, it really won’t be about the decisions of the person who wants to die, it will be more about the family of that person. What happens when one or two of them disagree with their mother’s decision. What happens when it is a disabled infant who can’t speak for themselves so it is a best guess. I am not at all against assisted suicide but it is not a clear-cut issue. Already physicians face complaints from families that lead to years-long investigations about their care of a parent and that is when they cure the parent. You need to read up the CMA statement on the subject. Problems have arisen in Holland and Oregon. Even look at a case in Edmonton about a 18 months ago where physicians petitioned to remove life support for a severely disabled infant who due to a traumatic birth was robbed of oxyygen and was brain dead. This issues are emotional and controversial and families rarely are on the same page. People have little trust in the medical system as it is. What makes you think they will trust physicians to announce that their family member should die by their hand?

      • I don’t mean to diminish the difficulty, but difficult decisions are part of life. Just think about abortion. I would just point out that the decision must be made by the sick person while of sound mind. So the decision is not made by doctors or relatives. And doctors would simply independently confirm that the pre-requirements are met. Nothing more. This could even be an independent board of some kind. Children need not be covered by this. I really don’t see much room for abuse. But I do see terminally sick people suffering unnecessarily for months or years. I would also point out that just because an option is available does not mean it will be readily used. Its just that, an option for people in a particular and difficult situation.

        • Oh, no Tim they don’t just want the doctor to confirm the pre-requirements are met, they want the doctor to provide the “death cocktail”.
          The difference with abortion is the person who has abortion is alive after the fact to say “I wanted the abortion; I was not coerced by a physician to have the abortion. I was of sound mind”. That is not the case in a physician-assisted suicide. If a family member comes back later and says, my mom changed her mind at the end, it could be very difficult for a physician to prove otherwise. I am not at all against assisted suicide BUT I definitely understand by the Canadian Medical Association has come out against it. Why would any physician want to get themselves involved in this possible quaigmire. I get it that people who don’t work in the industry don’t understand the level of skeptisism and mistrust toward healthwork workers and especially physicians. Just read some of the threads here. People are certain there is all kinds of abuse of patients in hospitals by staff; starving & dehydration “to free up beds”. I am not sure what these people think is the upside for any physician. Why would a physician even care to free up beds by starving and dehydrating patients? The government pays them no matter who is in the bed.

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