SASKATOON — A Saskatchewan father who chose to end his severely disabled daughter’s life is pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to strike down the ban on doctor-assisted death.
Robert Latimer went to prison in 1997 and sparked a national debate on euthanasia and the rights of the disabled for the killing of his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, four years earlier.
He told Saskatoon radio station CKOM the ruling surprised him but he thinks it gives hope to those in pain.
On Friday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Criminal Code’s ban on doctor-assisted death violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The High Court ruling gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives.
Latimer, who was released on parole in 2010, says the ruling recognizes there is a need to stop people’s suffering.
“There are people out there. There is a need for something where they don’t have to be continually kept alive because of some moral compasses come out of some religion or something,” Latimer said.
Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder in his daughter’s death and was given a life sentence.
Tracy Latimer had severe cerebral palsy. He put her in the cab of his truck on his family’s farm near Wilkie, Sask., and piped exhaust inside.
Latimer has always said he wanted to end his child’s chronic, excruciating pain.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said they were disappointed with the court’s ruling on Friday, stating in a news release that it is naive to think assisted suicide will not be abused.
The coalition said it fears assisted death will remove support, financial or otherwise, from resources for those suffering from illness or living with a disability.
Latimer said he doesn’t see how ending the suffering of one person, in his case his daughter, threatens another.
He said he hopes for a future where fewer people have to endure lasting suffering, but he wants the option of assisted death to be available for those who are hurting today.