07/13/2012 01:33 EDT | Updated 09/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Assisted Suicide Ruling Appealed: Ottawa To Fight B.C. Court Decision


Ottawa will appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling on assisted suicide Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced on Friday.

In June, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that Canada's ban on assisted suicide infringed on the rights of the disabled. The ruling opened the way for legalized assisted suicide in the country.

In a statement, Nicholson said the government intends to seek a stay on all aspects of the ruling, including the exemption for Taylor, while it goes to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

"The government is of the view that the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit medical professionals, or anyone else, from counselling or providing assistance in a suicide, are constitutionally valid," the statement said.

"The government also objects to the lower court’s decision to grant a 'constitutional exemption' resembling a regulatory framework for assisted suicide."

Taylor, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, hailed the lower court's ruling because it gives her control over when and how she dies.

She had hoped the government wouldn't appeal.

"I would really like to think that the government would see that they can't do this to me," Taylor said last month. "They can't do this to other Canadians.'

In her complex, 395-page judgment, Smith said the ban on physician-assisted suicide violates two sections of the charter of rights covering the right to equality and the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

She said the law must allow for doctor-assisted suicide in cases where patients have a serious illness or disability and are experiencing intolerable suffering. Such patients must ask for the help, must be free of coercion and cannot be clinically depressed, the ruling noted.

Nicholson, though, said the law has to protect people.

"The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities."

Nicholson also said the government would have nothing more to say on the matter while the case is before the court.

Canada has had a turbulent legal history with assisted suicide. Cases brought forward by Sue Rodriguez, a woman with ALS, and Robert Latimer, a father who was convicted of killing his severely disabled daughter, brought the debate to the headlines.

With files from the Canadian Press

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