Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Assisted suicide challenge struck down by BC Supreme Court

The right to die movement was dealt a setback yesterday when a B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled that a case brought forward by a prominent assisted suicide advocacy group will not go to trial.

Madam Justice Lynn Smith ruled that the Farewell Foundation for the RIght to Die cannot file a suit on behalf of its members if those individuals wish to remain anonymous.

The Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die was attempting to bring a constitutional challenge against current criminal prohibitions on assisted suicide.

According to Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing the foundation in this case, many of the Farewell Foundation's members did not feel comfortable disclosing either the details of their medical histories or their reasons for wanting to end their lives.

"We were trying something new," Gratl admits. "We attempted to bring an action by an unincorporated non-profit society on behalf of members who wish to remain anonymous and not be subject to cross-examination and probing document disclosure."

As The Tyee reported earlier this month, a similar case brought forward by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), which also challenges the constitutionality of assisted suicide criminalization, will be going to trial before the B.C. Supreme Court this coming November.

The ruling yesterday against the Farewell Foundation has no direct bearing on the BCCLA case.

While Justice Smith's ruling yesterday marks the end of the Farewell Foundation's independent legal challenge, the society has applied to intervene in the BCCLA case this September.

Legal intervention is a process in which a third-party joins an ongoing suit in order to represent a group who will be affected by the outcome in the case but is not directly represented by either of the original litigants.

Though both the BCCLA and the Farewell Foundation are seeking to overturn the criminalization of assisted suicide, there are slight differences between the legal alternatives advocated by each group.

"We believe that the assistance in self-chosen death need not require physician involvement.," explains Russel Ogden, director of the Farewell Foundation. According to Ogden, under a legal regime in which suicide is only permitted with the assistance of a physician -- the framework advocated by the BCCLA -- patients who wish to end their lives may still have trouble finding a doctor who is both willing and properly trained.

"By intervening," says Ogden, "we would be able to educate the court that providing self-chosen death is something that can be done and is done in other jurisdictions without requiring it as a medical activity."

Ben Christopher is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus