Canada agrees to hear appeal in right-to-die case

Canada's highest court said Thursday it will hear an appeal in a case that could grant terminally ill people the right to assisted suicide.

The case seeks to allow seriously and incurably ill but mentally competent adults the right to receive medical assistance to hasten death under specific safeguards, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said in a statement.

It has been illegal in Canada to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, an offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the appeal in the case of Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter, who were terminally ill. Taylor was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a degenerative neurological illness. Carter was diagnosed with a degenerative spinal cord condition.

A justice with the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the existing federal law banning doctor-assisted suicide is unconstitutional because it discriminates against severely ill patients. However, the justice delayed her ruling for a year to allow the to rewrite the statute.

She also granted Taylor an exemption that allowed her to seek assisted death.

The provincial court of appeal overturned the ruling but let the exemption stand. Taylor died of an infection in October 2012.

Carter traveled to a clinic in Switzerland in 2010 to drink a toxic dose of sodium pentobarbital.

It has been nearly 20 years since the tale of another patient with Lou Gehrig's disease, Sue Rodriguez, gripped Canada as she fought for the right to assisted suicide. She lost her appeal but took her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor in 1994, at the age of 44.

The group is continuing the fight. It said Elayne Shapray, a woman with multiple sclerosis who is seeking the right to die with dignity, has joined the challenge to the existing law.

Proponents of argue that the Rodriguez ruling is outdated and that society's view of the issue has changed significantly.

Opponents argue that allowing assisted deaths could lead to abuses of the elderly and infirm.

The federal government argues that the Rodriguez ruling is the final word on the subject.

Related Stories

Canada to appeal ruling on assisted suicide

date Jul 13, 2012

(AP) — Canada's justice minister says the federal government will appeal a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling that said federal laws banning doctor-assisted suicide are unconstitutional.

Ruling will allow doctors to help patients die

date Jan 14, 2014

Aja Riggs has undergone aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment for advanced uterine cancer. The 49-year-old remembers the feeling of her skin burning, the nausea and the fatigue so immense that even ...

Recommended for you

Future GPs could benefit from longer training

date 49 minutes ago

Newly-qualified GPs could be better prepared for practice by increasing the variety and duration of their training programme, according to research being published in the April 2015 issue of the British Jo ...

Ozone air pollution could harm women's fertility

date 2 hours ago

Many urban and suburban areas have high levels of ground-level ozone, an air pollutant that can adversely affect lung and heart health. New research in mice suggests breathing high levels of ozone could also affect women's ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.