I heard a bit of news on the radio late Friday evening that froze me to the spot with surprise –
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has declared Canada’s laws against physician-assisted suicide unconstitutional because they discriminate against the physically disabled.
I thought immediately of Eric. I very nearly got back online to email him (but went to sleep instead).
In a 395-page ruling released Friday, Justice Lynn Smith addressed the situation faced by Gloria Taylor, a B.C. woman who was one of five plaintiffs in the case seeking the legal right to doctor-assisted suicide.
Taylor has ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease, and she sought the ruling to allow her doctor to help her end her life before she becomes incapacitated.
Because that’s the terrible fear with diseases like ALS and MS (which Eric’s wife Elisabeth had): the fear of being so incapacitated that you can’t kill yourself when you desperately want to because you’re so incapacitated.
In her ruling, Smith noted suicide itself is not illegal, and therefore the law against assisted suicide contravenes Section 15 of the charter, which guarantees equality, because it denies physically disabled people like Taylor the same rights as able-bodied people who can take their own lives, she ruled.
“The impact of that distinction is felt particularly acutely by persons such as Ms. Taylor, who are grievously and irremediably ill, physically disabled or soon to become so, mentally competent and who wish to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives,” Smith writes.
“The distinction is discriminatory … because it perpetuates disadvantage.”
I was staggered by that; it’s such good sense, and I thought I would never hear it.
I want to read the full decision. Legal rulings can be wonderful reading, and I’m told this one is.