By Diane Coleman & Not Dead Yet
Canadian assisted suicide proponents lost a bid to legalize assisted suicide through Parliament last year. This year, they turned to the courts to challenge Canada’s laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia as unconstitutional. The case is now before the Canadian court in Vancouver and the proceedings began November 14, 2011. Plaintiffs include a woman with ALS.
The public debate is well underway. On November 13, the Calgary Herald published an op ed by three opponents of legalization entitled “Why we should be afraid of assisted suicide.” The authors describe the case as follows:
Carter vs. Attorney General of Canada brings a constitutional challenge to Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia. The case also seeks to legalize these practices as a medical treatment. Last year, a bill in Parliament seeking a similar result was overwhelmingly defeated…. The vote was 228 to 59.
Carter seeks to allow a medical practitioner or a person "acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" to assist a patient's suicide. … In the context of traditional medical treatment, "a person acting under the general supervision of a medical practitioner" would include a family member. …
As the authors point out, eligibility would not be limited to people whose condition is terminal:
In Carter, the amended notice of civil claim argues that laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide are unconstitutional for patients who are "grievously and irremediably ill." The term is not defined. The amended notice of civil claim does, however, give these examples of qualifying diseases/ conditions: "cancer, chronic renal failure and/or cardiac failure, and degenerative neurological diseases such as Huntington's disease and multiple sclerosis." The phrase "grievously and irremediably ill" would also appear to apply to chronic conditions such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. People who have these diseases and conditions can have years and, sometimes, decades to live.
In response to this op ed, James Swanson, a man with a severely disabled father and friend, sent an angry letter filled with the rhetoric of disability bigotry, which the Herald’s editors entitled “Trapped alive”: