Lawyer foresees ongoing push for euthanasia

June 20, 2011

VANCOUVER — Despite recent success blocking a House of Commons bill to permit euthanasia and assisted suicide, the battle is not over; activists have taken the fight to the courts.

Attorney Hugh Scher conveyed that warning during a presentation at the Third International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide at the Vancouver Airport Marriot Hotel June 4.

Scher is the legal counsel for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, host of the symposium.

One new challenge comes from the Farewell Foundation in B.C., an activist group, made up of patients, doctors, and other supporters, that is fighting for "the right to die".

They argue that those wanting to end their life are victims of "criminal prohibition," which adversely affects their quality of life, resigning them to a life of unbearable pain.

The Farewell Foundation was barred from incorporating because, the B.C. company registrar said, their corporate mandate was to break the law.

The foundation has used this denial as the basis for a constitutional challenge of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Another challenge comes from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the Carter family, who took their 89-year-old mother Kay for euthanasia to Switzerland, where it was legal.

The BCCLA case says the laws preventing assisted suicide in Canada infringed on her rights and are, therefore, unconstitutional.

Their goal is to bring the case to the Supreme Court.

"I'm not persuaded that the court will be that sympathetic," Scher said. The justices are mostly conservative, and the court's makeup will get more conservative in coming years.

Scher said the pro-life side must be diligent with challenges in the courts as well as in medical associations and colleges of physicians.

There must be an increase in palliative care and other services to the sick, disabled, and dying, he said.