Bill C-14: Liberals Went 'Terribly Wrong' With Assisted Dying Bill, Advocates Say

Posted: Updated:

VANCOUVER — One of the key plaintiffs in the court battle for physician-assisted death is celebrating the historic decision coming into effect, but calls the federal government's handling of the new law a betrayal.

Lee Carter said the Liberal government has crafted a bill so restrictive it would have excluded her own mother, whose medically assisted death outside Canada was at the centre of the Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Kay Carter, 89, was suffering spinal stenosis, a disease that is painful and irreversible but not terminal, when she ended her own life in Switzerland in 2010.

"They have not listened to Canadian voices, to their own joint committee and even their own members of Parliament who have serious concerns about this bill."

The tabled legislation makes it legal to provide medical help in dying for a competent adult who has a grievous or irremediable medical condition, but denies patients whose conditions are not terminal.

The ruling was made last year and the federal government was given until June 6 to write legislation, but that bill is still before the senate.

"Where did the Liberal government go so terribly wrong?" Lee Carter said at a Vancouver news conference on Monday.

"They have not listened to Canadian voices, to their own joint committee and even their own members of Parliament who have serious concerns about this bill."

Carter said Canadians for now must rely on the policy of provinces around assisted death. She urged the Senate to fix the "dysfunctional" legislation before it passes into law.

"We're hopeful that they will amend this bill so it doesn't exclude the people who were at the very heart of this case," she said.

assisted dying canada
Price Carter and Lee Carter listen at a press conference on doctor-assisted death legislation on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Photo: CP/Patrick Doyle)

Price Carter, Kay's son, said years of government inaction meant it was too late for his mother to die with dignity in Canada, but their family was heartened when the high court ruled in their favour.

He said Canadians should "be afraid" of the tabled legislation.

"In its current form, it's legislation that discriminates on age, mental status and level of health," he said. "If you ever find yourself spiralling toward a hideous but not terminal condition, know that Bill C-14 will ensure you are kept alive to lengthen your suffering until you die naturally."

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has supported the family's case as it wound through the courts for more than three years.

BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson said they met with MPs, senators, and opposition politicians after the high court decision, but "never once" was it suggested the government would exclude non-terminal patients.

"Our jaws dropped. We were on a briefing call the morning the bill came out with officials in Ottawa and we couldn't believe our ears," he said.

price carter
Price Carter at a news conference at British Columbia Civil Liberties in Vancouver, B.C., June, 6, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

"We weren't sure we understood it properly at first. Surely they couldn't have meant that. We're giving them some credit. We thought, 'Maybe we're interpreting this wrong.'

"Well no, they meant it and they've made that abundantly clear this week."

Last week, an Alberta Court of Appeal panel ruled the federal government wasn't complying with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling when it excluded people suffering solely from psychiatric conditions.

The void left by the lack of legislation and the expiration of the Supreme Court deadline is being filled in various ways by each jurisdiction.

In B.C., Health Minister Terry Lake said doctors must abide by the standards set out by the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Ontario's government is advising families and doctors to seek court approval for assisted death until the new legislation is passed. 

And Alberta has made public its own draft regulations for physician-assisted death, but notes those rules will be superseded when the federal law is in place.

Also on HuffPost:

Right-To-Die Laws Around The World
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction