Gov’t wins as­sisted dy­ing rul­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Ge­or­don OMAND

VAN­COU­VER — Se­verely ill Cana­di­ans who don’t qual­ify for med­i­cal help in dy­ing will suf­fer even longer while they wait to find out whether the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has vi­o­lated their right to a med­i­cally as­sisted death af­ter a court rul­ing in B.C. on Wed­nes­day, a civil lib­er­ties group says.

Chief Jus­tice Christo­pher Hink­son of the Bri­tish Columbia Supreme Court said the gov­ern­ment should be given a sec­ond chance to ar­gue the find­ings of fact that were used by the coun­try’s top court to over­turn a ban on as­sisted dy­ing in 2015.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s leg­is­la­tion, which came into ef­fect last year, needs to be as­sessed on “rel­e­vant, cur­rent ev­i­dence,” Hink­son wrote.

Bar­ring the courts from con­sid­er­ing the most up-to-date in­for­ma­tion would pre­vent a judge from be­ing able to de­cide what ev­i­dence is im­por­tant and how much weight it should be given, he added.

The B.C. Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion is spear­head­ing a law­suit launched in June 2016 that chal­lenges the fed­eral law, which it says is more lim­ited than the as­sisted-dy­ing regime the Supreme Court of Canada en­vi­sioned in its land­mark rul­ing, re­ferred to as the Carter de­ci­sion.

Caily DiPuma, the group’s lit­i­ga­tion di­rec­tor, said she is dis­ap­pointed in Wed­nes­day’s de­ci­sion but does not be­lieve it un­der­mines the un­der­ly­ing le­gal chal­lenge.

“While today’s out­come is un­for­tu­nate, it’s re­ally just a bump in the road,” she said out­side the court­house in Van­cou­ver.

“We’re fo­cused on the ul­ti­mate out­come. We de­feated these ar­gu­ments in Carter in 2015 and we’re con­fi­dent we’ll de­feat them again.”

In the mean­time, peo­ple will con­tinue to suf­fer while the case pro­ceeds through the courts, she added.

“Ev­ery day that this is­sue re­mains un­re­solved is a day that a per­son in Canada... spends trapped in in­tol­er­a­ble suf­fer­ing... un­der a law that un­justly re­stricts med­i­cal ac­cess to as­sisted death.”

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould said the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to de­fend its leg­is­la­tion.

“It strikes the ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance be­tween re­spect­ing the per­sonal au­ton­omy of those seek­ing ac­cess to med­i­cal as­sis­tance in dy­ing and pro­tect­ing the rights of vul­ner­a­ble Cana­di­ans,” she said in a state­ment.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment as­serted in ear­lier sub­mis­sions that new ar­gu­ments are re­quired be­cause the lat­est case in­volves dif­fer­ent plain­tiffs, a dif­fer­ent le­gal regime and a dif­fer­ent set of is­sues com­pared with 2015.

Shanaaz Gokool, head of Dy­ing With Dig­nity Canada, said Wed­nes­day’s rul­ing comes at the ex­pense of peo­ple al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­tol­er­a­ble pain and suf­fer­ing, who should have found re­lief un­der the de­ci­sion from the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’re very dis­ap­pointed in the rul­ing,” she said.

“It means that we can ex­pect a lengthy trial, and a very ex­pen­sive one.”


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