Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ruling allows assisted suicide

Parliament given year to change law

  • Print

VANCOUVER -- A B.C. woman whose health is in dramatic decline is now eligible for a legal physician-assisted suicide after a B.C. Supreme Court judge struck down parts of Canada's law banning the practice.

But Gloria Taylor's plight is the exception in the pivotal ruling by Justice Lynn Smith, who has suspended her decision for a year to give Parliament a chance to change the laws and bring them in line with the Constitution.

Taylor, who has Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, joined the legal action last year, saying she wanted the right to die with dignity and with the help of a doctor.

"She will be permitted to seek -- and her physician will be permitted to proceed with -- physician-assisted death under specified conditions," Smith said of Taylor in her ruling.

In her 395-page ruling, Smith said the laws banning doctor-assisted suicide are discriminatory, disproportionate and overbroad.

The ruling was hailed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and condemned by the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Taylor issued a statement through her lawyer saying she is relieved.

"I'm deeply grateful to have the comfort of knowing that I will have a choice at the end of my life," she said.

But Dr. Will Johnston, with the prevention coalition, said the ruling is alarming and an appeal is expected.

"We would caution Canadians to be skeptical that they can achieve greater choice and greater autonomy at the end of their lives or at any other time of their lives by giving power and constitutional protection to those who would arrange your suicide or your death," he said. "We think that this is naive."

The judge ruled the provisions in the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe on Taylor's rights to life, liberty and security of person.

She said the laws are discriminatory for those who are grievously ill or physically disabled who want to have some control over the end of their lives.

The judge noted the law doesn't prohibit suicide, but those who are physically disabled can't commit suicide without help. She said it has severe adverse effects on Taylor and others like her, and they aren't outweighed by the benefits of laws against assisted suicide.

Smith agreed risks exist in allowing doctor-assisted suicide, but she ruled those risks "can be identified and very substantially minimized through a carefully designed system imposing stringent limits that are scrupulously monitored and enforced."

Her declaration that the laws had no force and effect was specific to doctor-assisted suicide in which the patient is a fully informed competent adult free of coercion and not clinically depressed.

The judge also set out rules for Taylor if she wants to use her constitutional exemption during the year, including providing a written request, her doctor attesting she is terminally ill and near death, documentation of the medication to be used for her suicide, and applying to the B.C. Supreme Court for an order allowing a physician-assisted death.

Lawyers for the federal government argued at trial the current laws are needed to protect vulnerable people.

No one from the federal government could be reached for comment.

In 1993, Sue Rodriguez asked the Supreme Court of Canada for a doctor-assisted suicide and was rejected by a vote of 5 to 4.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2012 A25

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A squirrel enjoys the morning sunshine next to the duck pond in Assiniboine Park Wednesday– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local-(Standup photo)- A wood duck swims through the water with fall refections in Kildonan Park Thursday afternoon.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the province’s crackdown on flavoured tobacco products?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google