The pro-euthanasia movement suffered another legal defeat on March 8, when the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 that Sue Rodriguez does not have a right to physician-assisted suicide.
All three judges agreed that S.241 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits aiding or abetting a suicide, should be enforced, and all three said firmly that the debate over euthanasia should be settled by parliaments and not through court cases.
“There can be no doubt that this a hard case, but it ought not in my opinion, be allowed to influence the court to make bad law,” said Madam Justice Patricia Proudfoot.
Chief Justice Allan McEachern, however, dissented from the majority opinion. While he emphasized that he did not wish to see S.241 struck down, he said that the case was not a “general policy question,” and that Ms Rodriguez’s individual rights under the Charter were violated by the section.
He put forward a series of conditions which, in his view, would not allow a physician to aid Ms Rodriguez in her desire to commit suicide, with out risking prosecution, and which would not set a precedent for future cases.
Chris Considine, lawyer for Ms Rodriguez, immediately announced that they would pursue their case to the Supreme Court of Canada. He said that Judge McEachern’s dissent would be an asset to them. He added that he hoped the Supreme Court would move quickly to hear their application, because of Ms Rodriguez dies before the Court hears her arguments the case would “die with her.”
Sue Rodriguez said she was disappointed at the ruling, but encouraged by Judge McEachern’s support. At a press conference, she announced that a second doctor had contacted her to say that he would be prepared to break the law and help her commit suicide. Dr. Scott Wallace, of the Right to Die Society, had already said that he would be prepared to help Ms Rodriguez but he said that he was relieved another physician had now stepped forward.
Pro-lifers were elated that the B.C. court had upheld the law against suicide. Campaign Life Coalition B.C., the Compassionate Healthcare Network and Alliance for Life issued press statements that the humanitarian response to the needs of the terminally-ill is best addressed through loving palliative care and modern pain-relief techniques, not through killing the patient.
Dr. Robert Pankratz of the Pacific Physicians for Life confirmed to The Interim that his organization, and the Pro-Life Society of B.C., would like to intervene on behalf of the pro-life movement.