Children of woman at heart of assisted death debate urge amendments to bill

Parliamentarians are being urged to amend a proposed new law on medically assisted dying by the children of the woman whose suffering was central to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the ban on assisted death.

OTTAWA — Parliamentarians are being urged to amend a proposed new law on medically assisted dying by the children of the woman whose suffering was central to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the ban on assisted death.

Lee and Price Carter say their late mother would not have qualified for medical help to end her life under the restrictive provisions of the bill introduced last week by the Trudeau government in response to the top court’s ruling.

Instead, they say their mother and people like her would be forced to endure unbearable suffering, potentially for years.

“I’m shocked that this government’s proposal would exclude the very case this issue was tried on,” Lee Carter told a news conference Thursday on Parliament Hill.

“We fought for a half a decade and won our case at the highest court in the land and this bill would erase the victory that we achieved for people like my mom. We ask ourselves, what was the point?”

Kay Carter suffered from spinal stenosis, a painful condition that left her bedridden, unable to move or even feed herself. She found the loss of autonomy and dignity intolerable but was not, according to her children, facing imminent death.

The 89-year-old travelled secretly to Switzerland in 2010, where she legally obtained medical help to die. Her children, with the help of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and several other plaintiffs, carried on the court battle to legalize the practice in Canada.

The proposed federal law would allow assisted death only for consenting adults, at least 18 years of age, who are in “an advanced stage of irreversible decline” from a serious and incurable disease, illness or disability and for whom a natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”

The bill is more restrictive than the conditions prescribed by the Supreme Court, which ruled in the Carter case that medical help in dying should be available to clearly consenting adults with “grievous and irremediable” medical conditions who are enduring physical or mental suffering that they find intolerable.

“Canadians should be angry that this legislation restricts the definition for who dies and who suffers,” said Price Carter.

“It is unacceptable for this new law to say that some people must simply endure suffering because their illness isn’t terminal. It is not for the government to tell them that they must be forced to go on living.”

BCCLA executive director Josh Patterson said the government has invented additional restrictions, “seemingly out of thin air,” that the top court never contemplated and which make the proposed law unconstitutional. At a minimum, he said the government must delete the requirements that a person’s medical condition must be advanced, irreversible and incurable and that natural death must be reasonably foreseeable.

If it does not, Patterson said grievously ill people will be left with “the very cruel choice” that the Supreme Court explicitly said they have the right to avoid: “to take their lives prematurely while they’re still physically able or having to ask the help of their family members, who might potentially have to commit a crime to assist someone to die or else they will just have to suffer intolerably, trapped potentially for agonizing years and years into the future.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and her department’s officials have insisted the bill is consistent with the top court’s ruling. They’ve also maintained Kay Carter and the other plaintiffs in the case were close to death and therefore would have been eligible for an assisted death under the proposed law.

“With great respect, government lawyers have been wrong on assisted dying for the last six years and they’re wrong today when they say that,” Patterson countered.

“When the minister says Kay Carter’s death was coming, she’s not relying on the death … that would come from her spinal stenosis. She’s just saying, ‘She’s old and she’s going to die at some point.”‘

The BCCLA is also critical of the bill’s omissions. It does not extend the right to assisted dying to mature minors or those suffering only from mental illnesses. Nor does it allow for people with competence-eroding conditions like dementia to make advance requests for an assisted death.

The government is promising further study on those issues but Patterson said the bill should be amended to at least put a strict time limit on that study.

Just Posted

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

The Red Deer U18AAA Braves hit the field this weekend for their first games of the Norwest League season. (Advocate File photo)
Red Deer’s U18AAA Braves ready to open season this weekend

It’s been more than a year since many Red Deer Minor Baseball… Continue reading

Traffic signal upgrades are planned for May 30 at the intersection of 67th Street and 52nd Avenue. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Traffic light repairs set for 49 Ave. and 51 St. over weekend

Drivers in Red Deer can expect delays at the intersection of 49… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Embrace the omni-present wonderfulness of corn

OK, this week I’m going to get a little corny. So what,… Continue reading

Most Read