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Media Advisory: Supreme Court of Canada to release death-with-dignity decision; BCCLA & plaintiff’s family to be available in Ottawa

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
For immediate release

OTTAWA – On Friday morning, February 6, 2015, at 9:45 am Eastern, the Supreme Court of Canada will release reasons for judgment in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) – the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s constitutional challenge to the criminal prohibition on physician-assisted dying.

Lawyers for the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and two of the plaintiffs in the case, Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson, will be available on Thursday for advance stories, and on Friday at the Supreme Court building in Ottawa to publicly speak about the judgment.

What: When decision is released, BCCLA lawyers and members of the plaintiff’s family to speak publically about Supreme Court of Canada judgment in death with dignity case, and will be available throughout the day to speak to media.

Lawyers and family will be available for interviews by phone and in studio on Thursday as well for preview stories.

When: Friday, February 6, 2015 at 9:45 a.m. EASTERN (6:45 a.m. PACIFIC)

(Thursday, February 5, 2015 in Ottawa for advance interviews)

Where:  Supreme Court of Canada building, Ottawa

Photographers: family members will be available for photographs at the steps of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa when the decision is released, and on Thursday if desired.

Entrevues sont également disponibles en français.

Background: The BCCLA is the civil liberties watchdog responsible for launching the case. The BCCLA filed the “death with dignity” case in 2011. In June 2012, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the criminal laws against assisted dying violate the rights of the seriously ill and are unconstitutional. Our lead plaintiff, Gloria Taylor, became the first person in Canadian history to be granted the right to seek a physician-assisted death. In October 2013, a majority of the BC Court of Appeal ruled that it could not reverse the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1993 decision in Rodriguez v. B.C., effectively leaving the case for the Supreme Court to sort out. The BCCLA appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard arguments in the case in October 2014.

The BCCLA argued that the laws prohibiting physician-assisted dying are unconstitutional because they deny individuals the right to have control over choices that are fundamental to their lives and prevent unnecessary suffering. The BCCLA also argued that the laws restrict the liberty of physicians to deliver compassionate end of life care to incurably ill patients. The laws deny equality to the physically disabled by criminalizing a choice – the choice to end suffering through suicide — that is available to the able-bodied.

It has been twenty years since Canada’s highest court previously looked at the issue, dismissing a challenge to the law in the 1993 Sue Rodriguez case. Since that time, many countries including Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the states of Oregon and Washington, enacted legislation allowing assisted dying. These programs have been rigorously documented and studied, revealing that the fears about decriminalization are unfounded. A recent Ipsos Reid poll determined that 86 per cent of Canadians support the right to die for individuals who have a serious, incurable illness that result in unbearable suffering. The poll surveyed over 2,500 Canadians and is the most comprehensive survey undertaken on the public’s perception of assisted dying.

Read additional materials about the death with dignity case, including case documents, here >>

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MEDIA CONTACT
Charlotte Kingston, BCCLA Director of Community Engagement: [email protected]

PLEASE NOTE, we will be in transit during the day on Wednesday and will be able to respond to inquiries upon arrival in Ottawa.