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. Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P., posted the announcement that the government would appeal the BCCLA’s successful “death with dignity” case today on the Attorney General’s website.
The BC Supreme Court found the prohibition on physician assisted death in Canada’s Criminal Code violated the rights of the seriously and incurably ill to a death with dignity, and had provided the government with a year to revise the laws to make them constitutional. The Court also held that BCCLA plaintiff Gloria Taylor, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as ALS), could seek a physician’s assistance in her death, given the urgency of her case, and her rapidly progressing illness.
“We are extremely disappointed in the Government’s decision to appeal this case,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BC Civil Liberties Association. “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.”
The government is also appealing Gloria’s exemption, demanding instead that she continue to live with the fear of suffering a long and painful death, and that she not be permitted to have a physician assist her, at a time of her choosing, in ending her life with dignity.
“Beyond the hundreds of seriously ill Canadians this case gave hope to, Gloria Taylor specifically had the Court’s permission to access a physician’s help so that she could die with dignity. That decision was made after the Court heard weeks of evidence about Gloria’s personal situation. This level of interference by our government in the private matters between Gloria and her doctor is unacceptable.”
The BCCLA’s legal team will be resisting the government’s appeal, and will be working to preserve Gloria’s right to seek a dignified death with the help of a physician.
The BCCLA has a number of resources related to this case.