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Fighting for the Right to Die in Canada

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Canadian laws prohibiting assisted suicide are unconstitutional, the Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die claims in British Columbia Supreme Court.

The foundation is an unincorporated nonprofit whose members "intend, once its activities are declared lawful, to provide each other with physical assistance in ending their lives when it is necessary and appropriate to do so," according to the complaint.

The group claims the Criminal Code of Canada's provisions against assisted suicide are unconstitutional and arbitrary since criminalizing assisted suicide does not actually prevent it, though they do unconstitutionally deprive people of their right to liberty and security of the person, "by denying the right of equality to persons with physical disabilities, who lack the physical ability to end their own lives."

"Instead, the prohibition creates a niche for covert assistance rendered by physicians and lay people and forces physically disabled persons to travel to places outside Canada to lawfully obtain assistance in ending their lives," the complaint states.

"The experience in other Western democracies, including the experience in Oregon, Washington, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, demonstrates that the absence of a criminal prohibition on assisted suicide does not increase the rate at which vulnerable people are induced to commit suicide."

In a separate complaint, the same five individual plaintiffs and the Farewell Foundation challenge British Columbia's Registrar of Companies' denial of the foundation's nonprofit status.

They say the registrar mistakenly concluded "that he lacked jurisdiction to consider whether" the criminal code provisions against assisted suicide are unconstitutional "when denying the application of the Farewell Foundation for the Right to Die to register as a nonprofit society."

The plaintiffs are represented by Jason Gratl.

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