Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Canada Update - Court cases seek to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide

On January 27, 2012, EPC legal counsel, Hugh Scher, was in Trois-Rivières Quebec requesting co-intervener standing for EPC and Vivre dans la Dignité in the Leblanc case. The Leblanc case seeks to have Canada’s assistedsuicide law (Section 241b of the Criminal Code) declared unconstitutional and to decriminalize euthanasia.

Even though Duval may have intended to limit the challenge to the assisted suicide act, Section 11 of the Leblanc Notice of claim states:
“Due to her physical limits, the plaintiff will not without the help of a healthcare professional and / or that of a person acting under the supervision of such business, obtain and / or administer medication and / or the necessary treatment (s) to end her life.”
To administer requires another person to do the act, which is euthanasia.

At the preliminary hearing for the Leblanc case, Rene Duval, the lawyer for Ginette Leblanc, and the lawyers for the Attorney General, did not object to EPC and Vivre dans la Dignité being granted intervener standing, the only question was what rights will be given to their intervention.

In the past year, EPC intervened at the Ontario Court of Appeal in the Rasouli case, intervened in the Carter case at the Supreme Court of British Columbia (BC), and we are now seeking to intervene in the Leblanc case in Quebec.

EPC also intervened in the Carter case which was heard from November 14 - December 16 in
Vancouver BC. The co-intervention by EPC and EPC - BC was heard by Justice Smith on December 14.

The Carter case clearly intends to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

In the Carter case Notice of Claim, language was inserted that might become the framework for a law to allow the direct and intentional killing of people by euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The Carter case did not restrict actsof euthanasia or assisted suicide to physicians. The Statement of Claim says: a person acting “under the general supervision of a medical practitioner.” Family or other care-givers can act under the general supervision of a medical practitioner. The Carter case would allow a family member to cause the death.

The Carter case did not restrict euthanasiaor assisted suicide to people who are terminally ill. Carter defines eligibility based on people who are “grievously and irremediably ill.” Carter does not define grievously or irremediably ill but provides examples: “cancer, chronic renal failure and/or cardiac failure, and degenerative neurological diseases such as Huntington’s disease and multiple sclerosis.” The definition includes people who are not terminally ill but living with chronic conditions or disabilities.

John Coppard
John Coppard, a military veteran from Victoria BC, became involved with opposing assisted suicide for these reasons. He wrote in a letter to the editor:
 “As a person who is “grievously and irremediably ill” with Grade IV brain cancer, I would be affected should this case succeed. Two and a half years after being given a 20 percent chance of surviving five years, I am doing very well on medication approved by Health Canada only a year ago, within a week of my cancer coming back. 
Had I been given the legal choice of assisted suicide when I first received my terrible prognosis, or when my cancer returned, when I felt hopeless, I don’t know what I would have done. 
Now I’m doing very well, thanks to medical advancements that are coming faster than at any time in our history. Our anti-assisted suicide laws protected me and gave me a chance for a long and happy life, just as they were intended to do.”
In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, the Oregon law limits assisted suicide to people with “six months to live.” Jeanette Hall, from Oregon, was terminally ill and wanted to die by assisted suicide. Eleven years later she wrote in a letter to the editor:
“I wanted to do what our [assisted suicide] law allowed, and I wanted my doctor to help me. Instead, he encouraged me not to give up, and ultimately I decided to fight my disease… If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.”
The Carter case has been argued and we are waiting for a decision from Justice Smith. Based on her reputation as an activist judge, we are concerned that Smith may legislate from the bench.

If Smith legislates from the bench and in some way legalizes euthanasia and/or assisted suicide, the Hon Rob Nicholson (Attorney General of Canada) must immediately appeal the decision to the BC Court of Appeal. From there, the case would go to the Supreme Court of

Duval, the lawyer representing Leblanc, hopes to have their case join the Carter case at the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) and EPC – BC co-intervened in the Carter case in BC. EPC and Vivre dans la Dignité are seeking to co-intervene in the Leblanc case in Quebec.

You can make a difference.

The petition campaign to the Attorney General of Canada has been incredibly successful. Since we are waiting for a decision from Justice Smith in the Carter case, and since the Leblanc case has been launched in Quebec, you can collect signatures for the petition by downloading the petition online or sign the online petition.

Hon Rob Nicholson
You can write a hand-written letter to the Hon Rob Nicholson, Attorney General, urging him to immediately appeal any court decision that weakens the laws protecting us from euthanasia and assisted suicide. The letter should use a similar introduction plus one or both of the following talking points, with a similar conclusion.

As a Canadian, I ask that you do whatever possible to uphold our laws that protect me from Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.
*I am concerned that legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide will lead to pressure being placed on people with disabilities. Some deaths may occur without request or consent, as has happened in other jurisdictions.

*I am concerned that legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide will lead to new paths for elder abuse which is already a serious social problem in Canada.
Dependent elderly people or people with disabilities may die by euthanasia or assisted suicide because of pressure from abusive relationships that they are already experiencing.
I ask you to appeal any court decision that would in some way weakens our laws that protect people from euthanasia and/or assisted suicide.
Send the letter to: 
Hon. Rob Nicholson (Attorney General of Canada); 
House of Commons; Ottawa Ontario  K1A 0A6
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition needs your financial support to protect you from euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. The cost to intervene in the Carter case was $53,000. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition  needs your financial help to continue.

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