A news item was posted on CBC news on October
30, 2013 after an elderly couple plunged 18 stories from their
penthouse apartment to their death in Toronto. The article quoted
mental health experts who say that suicide rates are climbing among
the elderly. Given the increasing demographic bulge of aging baby
boomers, that is an alarming fact. An increasing number of lawyers
are developing an elder law practice to address the many challenges
faced by elderly adults.
For many, this type of tragedy raises the issue of whether
competent adults should be permitted to have their death
facilitated by a physician in certain circumstances. That issue
arose in R. v. Rodriguez  3 S.C.R. 519,
where Sue Rodriguez who suffered from ALS or Lou Gehrig's
Disease, a terminal illness, sought the right to choose the time of
her inevitable death. In a 5-4 split vote, the Supreme Court of
Canada upheld s. 241(b) of the Criminal Code which prohibits
In Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) 2012 BCSC
886, Madam Justice Lynn Smith struck down s. 241(b) on the
basis that the section infringed on a number of the plaintiffs'
Charter rights. She urged Parliament to allow exceptions to s.
241(b) to permit physician-assisted death under stringent
That judgment was overturned by the BCCA on October 10, 2013 in
a 2-1 decision. The majority found that it was bound by the
SCC's ruling in Rodriguez. The BC Civil Liberties
Association has announced its intention to appeal the judgment to
the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that the government has no
place at the bedside of seriously ill Canadians who have made firm
decisions about the amount of suffering they will endure at the end
Proponents of physician-assisted death call it part of the
continuum of health care which would be only be permitted in a very
small number of cases. Opponents say that it would lead down a
slippery slope and would open to the door to elder abuse.
It is important to note that even if the Supreme Court of Canada
restores the judgment of Madam Justice Smith, a physician-assisted
death would be available only in narrowly circumscribed
circumstances, in which the patient is mentally competent to make
that decision. Smith J. contemplated a strict procedure that would
only be available to grievously ill, competent, non-ambivalent,
voluntary adults who were fully informed as to their diagnosis and
prognosis and who were suffering symptoms that could not be treated
through means reasonably acceptable to those persons.
Accordingly, while the issue of elderly vulnerable adults
committing suicide necessitates attention and compassionate
assistance, it is a separate issue from the legal implications of
doctor-assisted suicide in terminal medical situations.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
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