VANCOUVER - Civil libertarians in B.C. are taking the fight for the right to die to court.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit in the province’s Supreme Court Tuesday in an effort to change legislation prohibiting assisted suicide.
“I believe that the choice to die with dignity should be available to all Canadians,” said Lee Carter at a news conference announcing the suit.
“My mother, Kay, was a lifelong supporter of the dying-with-dignity movement. I feel that I’m honouring her memory by participating in this legal challenge.
Kathleen Carter died surrounded by family, after drinking a glass of sodium pentobarbital and savouring a piece of fine Swiss chocolate.
Her death was a physician-assisted suicide and would have broken the law if it happened in Canada. The civil liberties association wants to change that.
Carter’s daughter, Lee, her husband Hollis Johnson, and Victoria-based physician William Shoichet, have joined the BCCLA in the lawsuit filed against B.C.’s Attorney General.
Johnson and Lee Carter traveled to Switzerland last year to help the senior Carter fulfill her wish to die with dignity with the help of a doctor. The 89-year old mother of seven suffered from spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition that confined her to a wheelchair. It would have left her unable to move or feed herself during her final days.
Before she died she wrote a letter to 125 friends explaining her choice to pursue that path. In it she wrote, “My journey to Zurich was filled with laughter and fond reminiscing."
When asked if more Canadians have traveled to the Digintas Clinic in Switzerland to help sick loved ones end their lives, BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said, “Absolutely. There are people across the country dealing with these harrowing and difficult choices.”
The act of suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972, but under the criminal code it is illegal to counsel, aid or abet, a person to commit suicide. The BCCLA wants B.C. to follow Oregon and Washington states. Both have passed legislation allowing for death with dignity. Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have also legalized medically assisted dying.