[Hpn] Right To Die Debate Urged

William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Thu, 18 Nov 2004 10:00:51 -0500


Nov. 18, 2004

'I think we could benefit from an . . . informed debate.'
Irwin Cotler, justice minister

Right-to-die debate urged

Cotler wants discussion in Parliament
Divisive issue `very difficult, complex'


OTTAWA - Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says Parliament should revisit a
divisive, highly emotional debate on assisted suicide.
Some recent high-profile cases in British Columbia and Quebec have renewed
questions about whether laws that deny the right to die should be changed,
he said.
"I find it a very difficult and complex issue," Cotler said yesterday after
being asked a related question during a Commons justice committee meeting.
"I think we could benefit from a take-note, informed debate and discussion.
You can't do this within the framework of question period or any of the
other frameworks we have."
Canadians have grappled for years with the issue in courtrooms and on
open-line talk shows. Perhaps the most famous case involved Sue Rodriguez of
Victoria. The Lou Gehrig's disease sufferer lost a dramatic legal battle for
the right to end her pain by assisted suicide. She took her own life in
1994, just months after her bid was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada.

An exhaustive Senate study in 1995 recommended against relaxing related
laws. But recent, headline-grabbing cases have raised the galvanizing issue
again, the minister said.
"People believe this is a matter of the right of personal choice and the
right to die in dignity. Others feel we've got to protect the rights of the
disabled, and this may be prejudicial," Cotler said.
Evelyn Martens of B.C. was found not guilty earlier this month of helping
two women in her province commit suicide.
Martens, 73, said just after her acquittal that she would not continue her
work with the Right to Die Society of Canada, a group working to loosen
Canada's suicide laws.
A Montreal mother was arrested in September after the death of her
36-year-old son. Police said the woman told them she had helped her son take
his life to end his suffering from multiple sclerosis.

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