Human rights lawyer ready to challenge medically-provided suicide for mentally ill

Carter decision based on consent, and ‘I don’t think that can be given’ says Julius Grey

By Anna Farrow, Montreal Correspondent, The Catholic Register

[Canadian Catholic News] – In a surprise announcement, prominent Canadian human rights lawyer Julius Grey told a group of anti-euthanasia protesters he is prepared to launch a legal action against the law that allows Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for those with mental health problems.

At a Nov. 18 gathering in Montreal’s Place du Canada, Grey said, “I do not think that the Carter decision applies in the case of mental health.”
Carter v. Canada is the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada judgment that criminal code prohibitions against physician-assisted suicide were unconstitutional.

As of March 17, 2024, Canadians suffering with mental health diagnoses will be eligible to apply for medically-provided euthanasia, known as MAiD (“Medical Assistance in Dying”).

Grey said he doesn’t believe the Carter decision is applicable in cases of mental health.

“The first reason is that Carter was based on the idea of full and complete consent, and I don’t think that can be given, and I think that applies to pediatric cases as well. Second, is the lack of imminence of death,” said Grey.

“That lack makes this provision particularly dangerous, because now, anybody could say, ‘I don’t want to live. My family is sick and tired of me, would you get rid of me, please.’

“When there are these two missing elements, consent and imminent death, things can go too far.”

Grey then told the group that, “I think that if this law goes into effect and is being practised, a second challenge should be made. We should tell the Supreme Court, ‘We understand what you say, and we respect what you say, but surely you didn’t mean this.’ ”

Dr. Paul Saba, a physician and pro-life activist, organised the Nov. 18 demonstration to “protect people with mental health problems.”

Though dwarfed by the larger and louder pro-Palestinian demonstration across the street, the gathering attracted some 100 people, including Montreal Archbishop Christian Lèpine.

“It was a great success,” said Saba. “It brought together a great group of people representing different areas of expertise with mental health issues as well as those who have endured mental health struggles.”

Saba told The Catholic Register that when he had invited Grey to talk at the rally, he had not anticipated the announcement of a legal challenge.

“It was unexpected, but I am delighted that Canada’s leading human rights lawyer is ready to lead a legal action against the law. I will be meeting with Julius and my lawyer shortly to discuss strategy,” said Saba.

Grey, who has written and acted in matters related to the application of the Canadian Charter of Human Rights, spoke strongly about the moral values underpinning the Charter.

“Society is losing sight of fundamental moral values, including life and freedom of expression,” said Grey. “Our society is giving way to waves and fashions of the moment. It is time to rebel against this. The purpose of medicine is to cure and to treat, not to kill.”