- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2015

A ruling Friday by Canada’s highest court to lift the ban on assisted suicide in limited cases has been denounced by pro-life groups.

“Today’s decision by Canada’s Supreme Court is the Roe v. Wade of euthanasia and a very dark day in Canada’s history,” said Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation.

“Our vulnerable and chronically ill friends to the North will now be victimized by a pro-death ideology. Previous experience in other countries shows that safeguards mean nothing,” he said.

The International Right to Life Federation, like other pro-life groups, seek to achieve legal protection for all innocent human life from conception until “natural death.”

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled in Carter v. Canada that assisted suicide was permissible in specific circumstances. The ruling overrules a 1993 decision that forbade assisted-suicide because of the government’s obligation to protect vulnerable people.

The new decision said competent adults with “grievous and irremediable medical conditions,” including illness, disease or disability, that cause them “intolerable” suffering, may clearly consent to ending their lives.

The government has a year to bring its regulations into compliance with the ruling.

The restrictions did not comfort some organizations.

This is a “terrible decision,” Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews.

“Legalizing assisted suicide will create new paths of abuse of elders, people with disabilities and other socially devalued people. The scourge of elder abuse in our culture continues to grow,” he told the pro-life news site.

LifeSiteNews said Canada is joining other assisted-suicide jurisdictions, such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the states of Oregon and Washington.

The plaintiffs in the case include two now-deceased women, Kathleen Carter and Gloria Taylor, who suffered from degenerative diseases and sought the right to assisted-suicide.

On Friday, Lee Carter, the daughter of Kathleen Carter, applauded the ruling.

“I want everybody in this country to live the life as they want to. But for those that … don’t want to continue, that have an incurable illness, [I’m glad] that they have a choice,” Lee Carter said, according to CBC News.

Lee Carter had traveled to Switzerland with her mother to obtain an assisted-suicide in 2010. Ms. Taylor died of her disease in 2012.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs had argued that the women were being discriminated against because their physical disabilities didn’t allow them to kill themselves the way able-bodied people could.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews that the new ruling told Canadians “that the lives of the weak, infirm, and vulnerable are not worth protecting” and “in essence decided that some people are better off dead than alive — and gave power to those who are strong to end the lives of those who are weak.”

“This is a terrible day of shame for Canada,” Mr. Hughes said. “We as a country have entered into utter moral blindness if we honestly believe that killing someone in the name of ‘compassion’ or ‘mercy’ is a solution to the problem of pain or debilitation. All life is a gift, and no one has the moral right to take that gift away from someone else.”

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a pro-life legal defense organization, saw silver linings in the decision, such as a requirement that the government craft a “stringently limited, carefully monitored system of exceptions,” and clear statements that doctors cannot be forced to participate in killing someone and that patients do not have a “right to death.”

“Suffering patients need sound medical treatment and real compassion, not encouragement to take their own lives,” said ADF senior counsel Brett Harvey. “Although we would have preferred for the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm Canadian laws against doctor-prescribed death just as it has done previously, the court did the right thing in highly limiting the occasions when assisted suicide can take place.”

The ruling should also affect conscience rights regarding abortion, another lawyer said.

The high court “expressly recognized that physicians have both conscience and religious freedom rights” that prevent them from being forced by regulators to participate in abortions or euthanasia, said ADF-allied attorney Gerald Chipeur of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson, which represented clients supporting Canada’s existing laws in the case.

“This right extends to participation by referral, meaning doctors cannot be forced even to refer patients for such activities,” Mr. Chipeur said. “This message should lead the Colleges of Physicians across Canada — and in Saskatchewan and Ontario, in particular — to abandon their plans to prosecute physicians who refuse to participate in abortions. The Supreme Court of Canada requires no less.”

Before Friday’s ruling, the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) said the high court is determining “public standards of what it means to live a dignified life.”

“If the Court strikes down the prohibition against assisted suicide, the fears of some will be assuaged by the knowledge that, at a time of their choosing, they may seek state-sanctioned intervention to cause their death. But for a growing group of Canadians whose daily lives fundamentally depend on the personal care and support of others, their fears are only heightened by such an outcome,” CCD and CACL, which intervened in the court in October, said earlier this week.

“In jurisdictions where assisted suicide/euthanasia is legal, the leading reasons given for dying are not pain-related, but rather ‘losing dignity and autonomy’ and ‘becoming burdensome for family and friends,’” the groups said. “To endorse these as valid reasons to die can only reinforce and entrench fear of disability and prejudice about the value of disabled people’s lives.”

“We are concerned that countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands see nothing wrong with euthanizing children and people with mental disabilities,” said the CCD and CACL, adding that their solutions are adopting “a policy of respect for individual lives, particularly at the end of life,” and “universal access to palliative care to ensure all people can get the care and support they and their families and loved ones need.”

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