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Media Release: BCCLA reacts to passage of assisted dying bill that it calls “unconstitutional”

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VANCOUVER (June 17, 2016) – Today, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the plaintiff organization in the Carter assisted dying litigation, reacted to the Senate’s passage of the assisted dying bill that imposes an absolute ban on non-terminal patients from choosing assistance in dying, and removes the Charter right that they had already won after years of fighting to the Supreme Court of canada. Josh Paterson, the Executive Director of the BCCLA, states:

“The government’s bill will trap patients in intolerable suffering, and takes away their hard-won Charter right to choose assistance in dying. It allows terminal patients to ease their death with a doctor’s assistance, but eliminates the right of non-terminal patients to escape years and decades of torturous pain. This will trap them in suffering, and may cause people to take their own lives prematurely while they remain physically capable of doing so – a cruel consequence that the Supreme Court recognized was unconstutional in Carter.

The sixty-five-year-old suffering excruciating physical and emotional pain, trapped in her body on account of advanced multiple sclerosis – but who is not going to die from her illness. The fifty-eight-year-old with locked-in syndrome, fully aware but trapped in his body for years on end, unable to move anything but his eyelids, who could live for decades more in that condition.  These people won the right to assistance in dying in the Carter decision. But today, Bill C-14 has taken that Charter right away from them.

This government has made much of its commitment to uphold the Charter of Right and Freedoms, yet this government is actually taking away the existing Charter right of suffering people to control their own lives and deaths.

It is irresponsible for Parliament to pass a law that the top constitutional experts in Canada have agreed is unconstitutional. It is irresponsible to force individual suffering Canadians to carry the burden of mounting a legal challenge, just to protect the rights that they had already won in court.

Through years of litigation, the BCCLA won the right for seriously ill adults who are suffering intolerably to choose assistance in dying, whether their condition is terminal or not. We must now seriously consider legal options to ensure that those Charter rights are fully protected.”

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Read more: www.bccla.org/Carter