The case is based on Kay Carter, who was diagnosed with spinal Stenosis in 2008. Kay was a member of the euthanasia lobby for many years, and was brought to Switzerland in January 2010, by her daughter Lee Carter and son-in-law Hollis Johnson. She died by assisted suicide at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Zurich. Lee and Hollis claim that they technically broke the law. The case also includes Dr. William Shoichet, a physician in Victoria BC who claims that he is willing assist the suicides of his patients, if the law were changed or struck down by the court.
The BCCLA is attempting to overturn the Criminal code provisions prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide by asserting that the law is unconstitutional. The BCCLA hope to bring the case to the Supreme Court with the expectation that the Court will reverse the Rodriguez decision (1993) and strike down the assisted suicide act. They also want to strike down the provisions in the Criminal Code that prohibit euthanasia.
EPC challenges BCCLA’s assertion that the Assisted Suicide Act is unconstitutional. The very basis of their case is incorrect, for several reasons. The Criminal Code does not infringe individual autonomy but rather it protects vulnerable persons. Canada has an interest in protecting its citizens from having death or harm imposed on them. The government must protect elders and people with disabilities from abuse and undue influence.
The BCCLA states in its “Notice of Claim” that the provisions in the Criminal Code that are unconstitutional, in relation to this case are: Sections 14, 21, 22, 222, and 241.
Section 14 states:
no person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted on him, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person that inflicts on the person who consents.
Section 21 states:
(1) Every one is a party to an offence who: (a) actually commits it; (b) does or omits to do anything for the purpose of aiding any person to commit it; (c) abets any person in committing it.
(2) Renders two or more persons carry out an unlawful intention to carry out an unlawful purpose and to assist each other to carrying out the common purpose, commits an offence, each of them who knew or ought to have known that the offence would be a probable consequence.
Section 22 states:
(1) and (2) Renders a person who counsels another person to be party to an offense, where the person counselled is thereafter a party to an offence, also a party to the offence.
Section 222 is the homicide provision of the Criminal Code. Euthanasia is defined as a form of homicide.
Section 241 is the assisted suicide provision in the Criminal Code. Section 241 prohibits, aiding, abetting (encouraging) and counselling suicide.
The BCCLA asserts that the Criminal Code prevents people from having control over personal choices. In fact the Criminal Code does not prevent personal choice, but rather it prevents another person from causing death or being involved with causing the death of another person. The Criminal Code prohibits a person from aiding, encouraging or counselling a person to commit suicide and it prohibits a person from directly and intentionally causing the death of another person.
The BCCLA also falsely asserts that withholding medical treatment or care that may result in the death of the person is that same as actively causing the death of a person. The courts have correctly recognized that there is a difference between causing a person’s death and letting them die.
EPC holds that the Criminal Code, when effectively applied, is designed to protect vulnerable people from another person influencing, encouraging, counselling or physically assisting the suicide of a person or directly causing that persons death. The Criminal Code protects people with disabilities from others who may consider their lives as not worth living and it protects seniors and other vulnerable people from the ultimate form of elder abuse, an intended death.
Disability activist, Mark Pickup, from Alberta stated to EPC:
"the newspaper described Kay Carter (89) as a Right to die proponent. She developed spinal stenosis in 2008 which causes "pain, lack of coordination, numbness, loss of bladder and bowel control and paralysis." That was enough reason to overturn laws against assisted suicide? I disagree. I've had those very same symptoms (and many others) throughout my 27 year journey with multiple sclerosis. I want our laws prohibiting assisted suicide to stay in effect and enforced, in case I despair and happen to meet someone like Kay's daughter and son-in-law who agrees with killing me."Based on negative social attitudes toward people with disabilities and the growing awareness of the social scourge of elder abuse, society must not remove the protections in law that exist to prevent assisted suicide or euthanasia, but rather society needs to uphold and maintain these laws while enhancing the care and protection that is provided for people with disabilities, people with chronic conditions, the frail elderly and those who are nearing death.