Federal government appealing assisted-suicide ruling

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says the federal government will appeal a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling which struck down Canada's ban on assisted suicide.

The ruling last month granted an exemption allowing Gloria Taylor, one of the women who brought the lawsuit, to die with a doctor's help.

The decision also gave the government a year to rewrite the law.

Nicholson says the government will seek a stay on all aspects of the ruling, including the exemption for Taylor, while it goes to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

He says the government believes Canada's existing Criminal Code ban on assisted suicide is constitutional.

"The laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide exist to protect all Canadians, including those who are most vulnerable, such as people who are sick or elderly or people with disabilities," Nicholson said in a statement released Friday. "The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation in Rodriguez (1993)."

"In April 2010, a large majority of Parliamentarians voted not to change these laws, which is an expression of democratic will on this topic. It is an emotional and divisive issue for many Canadians," the statement said.

Taylor, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, hailed the lower court's ruling because it gives her control over when and how she dies.