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Physician assisted suicide law struck down in Canada

Provincial court judge says laws discriminate against the disabled.

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BC Civil Liberties Association spokeswoman Grace Pastine hailed a decision to allow assisted suicide in Canada as brave. (CBC/Screengrab)

KELOWNA, BC – Laws preventing physician assisted suicide in Canada are unconstitutional because they discriminate against the disabled, a provincial Supreme Court judge has ruled.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith said suicide is not illegal, so Canadian laws that prevent the disabled from ending their own lives are discriminatory, CBC News reported.

“The impact of that distinction is felt particularly acutely by persons such as Ms. Taylor, who are grievously and irremediably ill, physically disabled or soon to become so, mentally competent and who wish to have some control over their circumstances at the end of their lives,” Smith wrote in her 395-page ruling. “The distinction is discriminatory … because it perpetuates disadvantage.”

Smith’s ruling came in the case of Gloria Taylor, a West Kelowna, BC, woman with ALS who is one of five complainants in the case.

Assisted suicide convictions in Canada carry a maximum 14-year prison sentence, The Associated Press reported.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay said he didn’t know what Taylor’s plans were, but relayed that his client expressed relief when told of the ruling.

More from GlobalPost: Should Canadians have the right to die?

The judge cleared the way for Taylor to end her own life, but said she would also suspend her ruling for one year to allow the federal government to adjust its laws.

The federal government said it will likely appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, but that it’s also sifting through the hefty ruling before making a decision.

“We think this judgment decided to minimize and to disregard a lot of the evidence of harm in other jurisdictions where assisted suicide and (euthanasia) has been practiced,” Dr. Will Johnson of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition told the AP.

BC Civil Liberties Association spokeswoman Grace Pastine hailed the decision as brave; the association brought the court challenge alongside the five individuals in the case.

Pastine said it was a “watershed decision,” The Globe and Mail reported.

More from GlobalPost: Georgia’s assisted suicide law struck down

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120615/physician-assisted-suicide-law-struck-down-canada