Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al.

(British Columbia) (Civil) (By Leave)


Constitutional law - Right to life (s. 7), Fundamental justice (s. 7).


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Charter of Rights - Right to life - Equality - Fundamental justice - Terminally ill patients seeking assistance to commit suicide - Whether trial judge erred in distinguishing Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 519 - How does stare decisis doctrine apply? - Are ss. 14, 21, 22, 222 and 241 of the Criminal Code constitutionally inapplicable to physician-assisted death by reason of interjurisdictional immunity doctrine? - Do ss. 14, 21, 22, 222 and 241 of the Criminal Code infringe either s. 7 or 15 of Charter? - If so, is infringement reasonable limit prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in free and democratic society under s. 1 of Charter? - What remedy is appropriate? - What is appropriate framework of analysis for costs in such public interest litigation? - Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, s. 241(b).

Ms. Kay Carter and the appellant Ms. Gloria Taylor both suffered from intractable and progressive diseases and are now deceased. They had joined with the other appellants in bringing a civil claim before the British Columbia Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Criminal Code provisions against assisted suicide and euthanasia, specifically ss. 14, 21, 22, 222 and 241. They focused their case, however, on s. 241, which prohibits aiding another person to commit suicide. They succeeded at trial notwithstanding this Court’s decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 519, that s. 241 did not infringe certain Charter rights under ss. 7 and 15. A majority of the Court of Appeal, however, allowed the Attorney General of Canada’s appeal.