by Warren Kinsella
VANCOUVER - Cementing its reputation as the place where wild-eyed legal decisions are given the fullest possible expression, a British Columbia court last week decided to turn Canadian law on its head.
Matters of life and death, too.
As you may have heard, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled laws prohibiting assisted suicide were “discriminatory,” and gave an ailing B.C. woman the green light to kill herself with the help of her doctors.
Everyone else looking to kill themselves, however, will have to wait a year. Smith decided to give Parliament 12 months to get its laws in congruence with, you know, her view of things.
A 64-year-old Okanagan Valley resident, Gloria Taylor, suffering from ALS, was given a “constitutional exemption” from the law, which came as a surprise to those of us who laboured under the view that the Constitution did not permit “exemptions.”
Getting in on the polling business, the B.C. judge proclaimed there existed “a strong societal consensus about the extremely high value of human life, (but) public opinion is divided regarding physician-assisted death.”
Actually, it isn’t. Surveys, such as they are, tell us Canadians overwhelmingly favour “assisted suicide” — which is The Mother of All Oxymorons, if you ask me — and, based on how leading Ottawa journalists (Andrew Coyne, Paul Wells, et al.) recently mocked the fate of Jun Lin, the alleged victim of Luka Magnotta, I wouldn’t necessarily agree we place “extremely high value on human life,” either.
But Smith’s judgment, unfortunately, is the law. It joins a long line of other B.C. legal rulings that prove, inarguably, that the judicial nuts do indeed roll into the judicial corners.
Religious points of view about Smith’s 400-page judgment are predictable and unnecessary. There are a sufficient number of secular arguments against “assisted suicide” to persuade sensible politicians to recognize that Smith’s judgment will lead us into perilous waters.
Thus, euthanasia for the “terminally ill” is hazardous because we don’t possess a working a definition of terminal. Jack Kevorkian, the “Dr. Death” who killed dozens of Americans until his own (perhaps timely) passing, defined terminal as “any disease that curtails life even for a day.”
Even a day? In the pro-death crowd, that’s actually considered conservative. The co-founder of the Hemlock Society defines it as “terminal old age.” Others declare a person terminal when death will occur in a “relatively short time.”
Given that we all start to die the moment we are born, you can perhaps see the problem here. One man’s terminal is another man’s weeks, or months, or years.
As a liberal, I have another problem with terminating those who are “terminal.” The overriding theme in every discussion of health care, nowadays, is cost. Politicians and bureaucrats — conservative ones in particular — are always obsessively looking for ways to contain health-care expenditures.
So, for example, after the passage of Oregon’s Measure 16 — which legalized assisted suicide — the state’s leading health bureaucrat declared such measures would be paid for as “comfort care” under the Oregon Health Plan. Which, coincidentally enough, provides medical coverage for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who are poor.
Months later, Oregon then announced plans to cut back on health-care coverage for poor citizens. Offing the poor? Funded. Helping them get better? Not.
One of the principal arguments against “assisted suicide,” however, came to me from my father, who — before his death eight years ago this month — received the Order of Canada for his writings about euthanasia.
“I’m a doctor,” he said to me and some of my buddies one evening at the supper table. “I went to school to save lives, not end them. Will the state now start funding schools where students receive training in killing supposedly sick people?”
Good question. I doubt Justice Lynn Smith has an answer, however.