Assisted-suicide advocates BCCLA set for court battle
BC Civil Liberties Association says the Supreme Court of Canada will hear its case in October. Lawyers Joseph Arvay (L) and Grace Pastine (C) wait to talk to the media as members of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition protest outside the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver June 15, 2012. The court in a ruling declared a section of the Criminal Code that prohibits physician-assisted death invalid. Arvay represented plaintiff Gloria Taylor who suffered from ALS and argued the law infringes on the equality of rights. (REUTERS/ ANDY CLARK)
"My mother strongly believed that all Canadians should have the right to decide how much suffering to ensure at the end of life, based on their own values and beliefs." — Jason Taylor, son of Gloria Taylor
The BC Civil Liberties Association says it now has more than 15,000 pages of material supporting its push for physician-assisted suicide it would present before Canada’s highest court in October.
Speaking in Vancouver on Monday, litigation director Grace Pastine said the BCCLA is fighting against Canadian law that prohibits doctors from assisting consenting patients to die.
In a previous court decision, the B.C. Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs and struck down the prohibition, but that decision was overturned last year in the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Pastine said on Monday the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear the case on Oct. 14.
“Our lawsuit argues that the laws that criminalize doctors for helping competent, seriously ill individuals who wish to hasten death are unconstitutional,” she said.
According to the BCCLA, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, plus Oregon and Washington states, are among the places that have already decriminalized or legalized assisted suicide.
Elayne Shapray, a 67-year-old with multiple sclerosis, filed affidavits in support of assisted suicide and told reporters she feels “trapped in a useless body.”
Her voice was barely audible despite a microphone inches from her lips.
“I’m unable to feed myself, brush my teeth, write or read a newspaper, push a button to use a phone or to use an iPad,” she said.
“The idea that if I wait too long to be able to take my own life, I wouldn’t be able to do so is distressful … for obvious reasons, I would prefer a peaceful death at a time of my choosing surrounded by my family and friends.”
Hollis Johnson, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, took his wife’s mother to Switzerland so she could undergo physician-assisted suicide because of Canada’s laws.
He said there were numerous checks throughout the process to ensure his mother-in-law had made her own choice, including two verifications from different physicians the day of her death.
Former lead-plaintiff Gloria Taylor died of natural causes in October 2012.