Canada’s attorney general announced Friday that he will appeal a lower court ruling that has cleared the way for assisted suicides.
“The government is of the view that the Criminal Code provisions that prohibit medical professionals, or anyone else, from counseling or providing assistance in a suicide, are constitutionally valid,” Attorney General Rob Nicholson said in a statement.
The nation’s top Justice Department official acknowledged that the issue is “emotional and divisive” for many Canadians.
But, he added, “The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities.”
The Supreme Court of British Columbia last month said a ban against physician-assisted suicides was unconstitutional.
The ruling related to the case of a 64-year-old Gloria Taylor, a Lou Gehrig’s disease patient who was among five plaintiffs seeking to overturn legislation that prohibits doctor-assisted suicides.
Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that progressively robs patients of control over their bodies.
In a 395-page ruling, Judge Lynn Smith said that provisions of the Criminal Code that prohibit physician-assisted death were invalid and discriminatory, and “unjustifiably infringe the equality rights” of plaintiffs in the case.