Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver has “strongly” urged the government of British Columbia to appeal a provincial Supreme Court decision to strike down a law banning physician-assisted suicide.
He said the ruling is “extremely flawed and dangerous,” and “sadly reflects a distorted view of equality rights that emphasizes autonomy over human dignity and the value of life.”
“We have been down this road many times around the world, and all the safeguards initially put in place wind up either disregarded or eventually dispensed with,” the archbishop said June 16.
“The result is euthanasia harms not only those whose lives are taken, but those responsible for taking them.”
British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith on June 16 ruled that the law violates the constitutional rights of the three plaintiffs: Gloria Taylor, Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson.
Plaintiffs Carter and Johnson helped Carter’s mother Kay obtain a physician-assisted suicide in Switzerland. Taylor, 64, suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease and has sought a declaration of a right to doctor-assisted suicide.
Justice Smith said the anti-euthanasia law is invalid. However, she suspended the decision for a year to allow Parliament to modify the law to make it constitutional, the British Columbia newspaper The Times Colonist reports.
The ruling grants a constitutional exemption to plaintiff Gloria Taylor, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She can apply to a court for access to physician-assisted suicide if she provides written consent, if her attending physician attests that she is near death with no hope of recovery and if the physician and a psychiatrist testify that she is mentally competent.
Lawyer Jason Gratl represented the Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die, which was an intervener in the case. He said the foundation is prepared to help others apply for a constitutional exemption.
He said he believes the government will appeal the ruling, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports.
However, a government spokeswoman said a decision to appeal has not been made.
Julie Di Mambro, spokeswoman for federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, said assisted suicide is “an emotional and divisive issue for many Canadians.”
“Parliament voted as recently as April 2010 not to change these laws,” she said.
Archbishop Miller stressed the need for a true understanding of liberty, which he said includes “the freedom to live one’s life secure in the knowledge that those who care for us are dedicated to the service of life, not the taking of life.”