OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear an assisted suicide and euthanasia case from British Columbia, the so-called Carter case.
The court's decision to hear the case has alarmed disabled Canadians.
"The ongoing efforts to achieve assisted suicide by any means are escalating the level of anxiety experienced by people with disabilities," said Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) chairperson Tony Dolan.
"Imagine the emotional toll it takes on people with disabilities who keep hearing from assisted suicide campaigners that people who experience problems with toileting, feeding and other activities of daily living should have help to die."
CCD and the Canadian Association for Community Living, two of Canada's largest groups advocating on behalf of people with disabilities and their families, wanted the court to deny the appeal.
Though the court did not give a reason for hearing the appeal, it did deny a request from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) to expedite the hearing for the sake of ill persons who want an assisted suicide.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has announced it will seek leave to intervene before Canada's highest court.
"In jurisdictions where these practices have been legalized, there have been significant abuses of vulnerable people," said EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg.
"For example, a study in Belgium found that 32 per cent of the people killed under the Belgian euthanasia law were killed without request, a breach of a fundamental condition of that law. Not one of these doctors has been prosecuted."
The family of Kay Carter, who died in 2010 from assisted suicide in Switzerland, launched the suit in 2011, along with BCCLA. Gloria Taylor later joined the suit, though she died of ALS in 2012.
In June 2012, the B.C. Supreme Court struck down Canada's Criminal Code provisions against euthanasia and assisted suicide, saying they violated the constitutional rights of disabled people.
The B.C. Court of Appeal overturned that decision late last year, arguing the lower court did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the Supreme Court of Canada in Rodriguez.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada recently overturned an earlier decision upholding Canada's prostitution laws, saying it does not necessarily see itself bound by its own precedents.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Health Minister Rona Ambrose have both said the government has no interest in re-opening debate on euthanasia.