Assisted-suicide appeal court ruling expected in B.C.

The B.C. Court of Appeal will release its ruling Thursday in a controversial and historic right-to-die case that could legalize physician-assisted suicide.

ALS patient Gloria Taylor fought to change Canada's law on doctor-assisted suicide

Gloria Taylor, who won the right to seek doctor-assisted suicide, died last October without seeking the help of a physician. The B.C. Court of Appeal will rule on her case on Thursday. (CBC)

The B.C. Court of Appeal will release its ruling Thursday in a controversial and historic case about the right to die.

Last year, ALS patient Gloria Taylor of Kelowna, B.C., won a landmark ruling when a B.C. Supreme Court judge struck down Canada’s law that made doctor-assisted suicide illegal.

The judge concluded the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit assisted suicide violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But the federal government is appealing that ruling, saying the law protects vulnerable people.

Taylor, who suffered from the degenerative illness also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, has since died from the ailment. Her mother, Anne Fomanoff, is hopeful the earlier decision will stand.

She said people who suffer, as her daughter did, should be able to choose when to end their life.

“You would have to see it to know what I'm talking about. You would have to see the pain, the struggle, the daily struggle. It was intense,” Famonoff said.

“It's got to be for other people who want, and need, to make that choice. My feelings are so deep in this respect.”

But Margaret Cottle, a palliative care physician and spokeswoman for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said she hopes the government’s decision stands.

Cottle  said allowing physicians to assist with suicide could lead to people with disabilities or others being pressured to end their life.

“The risks that we have as a culture when that happens are too much for the rest of us,” she said.

“There are so many vulnerable people who would very quickly find that the ability to request death soon becomes the duty to die."

The Court of Appeal's reasons for judgment in Carter v Canada will be released at 10 a.m. PT.

Whatever the ruling on Thursday, many observers expect the case will end up at the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled against physician-assisted suicide two decades ago in a landmark case involving another B.C. resident, Sue Rodriguez.

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