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Viewpoint - Euthanasia case piques interest
By JACK HALLAM
Those who have lived on Salt Spring for 10 or 12 years will remember the petitions that were circulated in support of clemency for Robert Latimer.
The first petition gained 400 signatures, the second a year later with the help of Dr. Brian Finnemore over 800, which would have been even higher if several pages of signatures had not disappeared. The petitions were sent to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
This was a case of euthanasia and the Supreme Court of Canada in its final decision after describing Robert as a “loving father” had to uphold the cruel law as it was written.
In 1993, Sue Rodrigues’ case for assisted suicide drew national and international attention. Most know that the decision of the SCC to not allow her to legally ask a physician to end her horrible suffering was a close five to four decision. The present Chief Justice, Beverly Mclaughlin, voted with the minority. Justice Sopinka wrote of the Catholic doctrine of the “sanctity of life” and voted with the majority.
Those of us who know from personal experience the lengthy agonizing death of a loved one, in my case my grandfather whose moaning in the final stages of stomach cancer I can still remember 79 years later, also know that the present law that assisted suicide is criminal is cruel and reprehensible.
In B.C. we now have a similar court case to that of Sue Rodrigues. Gloria Taylor of Kelowna also has ALS and has lived longer than her doctor predicted, but is desperate to end her life before she reaches the horrible condition of Sue Rodrigues. The court case is called the Carter Case as it is brought with the help of the B.C.Civil Liberties association by Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson, who escorted Lee’s mother to Dignitas in Switzerland last year where physician-assisted suicide is not illegal.
Dr. William Shoichet, who has written extensively on assisted suicide, has joined the court challenge on behalf of Gloria Taylor. The BCCLA will also have Dr. Georg Bosshard, a renowned researcher who wrote Euthanasia and the Law in Europe.
A similar court challenge in Quebec on behalf of Ginette Leblanc (age 47), who also has ALS and has lost the use of her legs and is losing the use of her hands, is expected to be initiated soon with the help of a prominent civil rights lawyer named Rene Duval.
Most thinking and informed people are aware that assisted suicide is now legal in Montana, Washington and Oregon and in Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. Public opinion in favour is probably strongest in Switzerland. Recently in Zurich in the German-speaking part, a referendum was held to make assisted suicide illegal. It was defeated by a resounding 85 per cent!
Last February here in B.C. a new organization, the Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die, was formed. Its founding director Russel Ogden accompanied the Carter family to Zurich, Switzerland last fall. It has been granted intervenor status in the Carter case. Its position differs from the BCCLA in that is doesn’t believe a physician has to be present to assist someone who, after careful consideration, wants to die.
Why does this interest me so much? I have been a member of the existing Right to Die Society for nearly 30 years. It has recently joined with the other Canadian organization Dying with Dignity, but the Farewell Foundation may prove to be the most valuable in helping those of us who plan our own exit.
In my case, with multiple and increasing health problems I’ve told my closest relative and several friends that I would like to make my final exit near the end of 2012.
Although he is a major disappointment, I hope Obama is re-elected in November 2012 and would die knowing there may still be hope for the declining American empire. If defeated, I would not want to be around on the same continent with a Tea Party-influenced Republican government.
The writer is a retired university professor.