Assisted suicide returns to Canadian courts

Her case began in B.C.'s Supreme Court this week but Gloria Taylor suffering from ALS has already taken her fight public. She has spoken at length on this program. Now in a Vancouver courtroom, those arguing against the decriminalization of assisted suicide are waiting to make their case.

Part Two of The Current

Assisted suicide returns to Canadian courts - John Coppard / Will Johnston

We started this segment with a clip from Gloria Taylor speaking with The Current in August about her fight to get a doctor to help her to die. She has late stage ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative condition, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Along with the BC Civil Liberties Association, Gloria Taylor is challenging Canada's assisted suicide law. The Supreme Court of British Columbia began hearing testimony in the case yesterday, the first time the issue has been heard in Canadian courts since 1993 when Sue Rodriquez unsuccessfully challenged the law in the Supreme Court of Canada. Rodriguez subsequently ended her life with the help of an anonymous doctor.

This morning, after two years of study, the Royal Society of Canada released a report looking at physician-assisted death from ethical and legal standpoints. The expert panel concluded that Canada should have a permissive, yet carefully monitored system with respect to assisted death. It says autonomy is highly valued by Canadians. And it says that in countries that allow assisted suicide, there is no evidence of a slippery slope leading to involuntary euthanasia of vulnerable individuals.

Meantime, Gloria Taylor's court battle continues. We spoke to her and her lawyer on The Current in some detail in August. So today, we wanted to hear from a different perspective ... those who argue where there's life, there's always hope. And contrary to what the Royal Society concluded, they believe that assisted suicide does present a slippery slope - with dangerous consequences.

John Coppard is struggling with brain cancer. He was diagnosed two years ago and he was at home in Victoria, British Columbia. And Will Johnston is a family physician and the Chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of B.C. The group has intervenor status in the court case being heard now. He was in our Vancouver studio.

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