B.C.'s highest court to hear federal appeal of assisted suicide ruling

VANCOUVER – The battle over doctor-assisted suicide is expected to begin in the B.C. Court of Appeal, as the federal government fights a lower court order to rewrite laws governing the rights of terminally ill people to end their lives.

The fight was launched last June when a B.C. Supreme Court judge found laws against physician-assisted suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The federal government was ordered to rewrite its legislation and, in the interim, Gloria Taylor, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, was granted an exemption to the assisted-suicide ban.

But the Kelowna. B.C., woman, who was in the advanced stages of ALS, died just a few months later of an infection without taking advantage of the exemption.

The BC Civil Liberties Association opposes Ottawa’s appeal of the right to die ruling but critics of assisted suicide say it must go ahead to ensure the ill and elderly do not become victims of abuse.

Experts on both sides predict that regardless of B.C.’s high court ruling, the case could still go to the Supreme Court of Canada for a final decision.