This Farewell Foundation Report covers the Carter Trial for December 14, 2011
Day 20: Wednesday December 14, 2011 (The Opposing Interveners)
December 14th was reserved for the interveners, the Christian Legal Fellowship and the euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
THE CHRISTIAN LEGAL FELLOWSHIP
Bradley Miller, professor of law at University of Western Ontario, presented the argument on behalf of the CLF. The CLF intervened in the Carter case to argue the legal and moral principle of the inviolability of life found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It says that the prohibition on physician assisted suicide and euthanasia exists to protect the most vulnerable in Canada.
The CLF warned Justice Smith in “exercising the right to make a life and death decision, this Court would do well to not risk … damage … (what) it cannot repair.” The CLF said that the physician oath to do no harm applies equally to judges.
Mr. Miller invoked the “principle of inviolability” which he said is the same concept as the “sanctity of life” to assert that the lives of all people are “intrinsically and equally valuable, and, without exception, the intentional taking of innocent human life is always wrong.” He said that autonomy arguments of the plaintiffs would require doctors and society at large to endorse the judgement of a patient that his or her life is no longer worth living, has no value and that continued life is a harm. Miller said that accepting such an argument put at risk the lives of people who are not asking for help to die.
The CLF argued that without a prohibition against assisted suicide, the disabled community would be subject to subtle pressures from family, doctors, and society to agree to have physician-assisted suicide. Miller said that prohibition is necessary to support the existing medical and ethical culture against killing. He said the ethic against killing is an internalized ethic supported by the law and that it must not be dismantled. To do so would harm medicine, palliative care, and society.
In the CLF’s concluding statement, Mr. Miller said that the Court should not strike down the law because of the principle of inviolability and because such matters of public policy belong to parliament, not the courts. He said the court simply “does not have the benefit of the wide ranging consultations that are available to government.” With reference to the cases of Sue Rodriguez and Robert Latimer, the CLF said every time it has had to consider assisted suicide and euthanasia, the Supreme Court of Canada has chosen to side with life.
EUTHANASIA PREVENTION COALITION
Hugh Scher presented the argument on behalf of the EPC. The EPC submission said that “(b)y legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, society crosses over that line that maintains human life as inviolable, i.e. of intrinsic worth and value.” To cross that line would make society’s most vulnerable people, seniors, and the disabled, “fair game” to be killed.
Mr. Scher said that any constitutional exemption to allow assisted death would amount to a “lethal form of discrimination.” Safeguards, he said, are not sufficient and people “who participate in these intentional killings are lesser for it and make the community less.”
“Negative messaging,” an issue already identified by Canada was also argued by Mr. Scher. He said that people with disabilities are too often the “victims of experiments in social engineering that undermine their inherent dignity and humanity.” He cited forced sterilization, medical experimentation and eugenics as examples.
Mr. Scher said that suicide is never a rational act, it is a cry for help. Quoting from the 1995 Senate Report “Of Life and Death,” Scher repeated the words of Gary McPherson who spoke on behalf of the Alberta Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with disabilities:
“Canada has identified a suicide problem among its youth, and we have responded ‘How can we prevent it?’ Canada has identified a suicide problem among Aboriginal peoples and we have responded ‘How can we prevent it?’ Canada has identified a suicide problem among people with disabilities and we have responded ‘How can we assist them to kill themselves?’” (G. McPherson, Sept 30, 1994, oral submission to Senate Committee)
In closing, the EPC asked that the Court dismiss the Carter claim on terms that would enhance equality for Canada’s seniors and people with disabilities and to reduce prejudice and disadvantage and support the intrinsic value of all life.