Supreme Court rules in favour of physician-assisted suicides

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The Supreme Court of Canada voted unanimously 9-0 this morning to strike down a ban that prevents consensual doctor-assisted suicide for patients who are mentally competent and suffering “grievous and irremediable medical conditions.”

It is a landmark ruling that eradicates the federal government’s existing law and provides Parliament, provincial governments and health care providers with one year to draft new legislation and policies that provide individuals assistance with dying.

Doctors are to evaluate whether the adult is mentally competent of making such a decision on their life, which can be based on situations that include illness, disease or disability and cause “enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

The Court also addressed the issue of the charter right to life, as the existing legislation ban is based on this principle. However, it stated that the current laws revolve around a ‘duty to live’ instead of the ‘right to life.’ It limits individual choices as well as “their security of a person” when they are forced to “tolerate intolerable suffering.”

The decision was made after the B.C. Civil Liberties Association submitted the case on behalf of two now-deceased B.C. individuals, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor. Both women have since succumbed to their degenerative diseases, but prior to the legal file they urged doctors to provide them with the right to determining their own deaths.

About 21 years ago, the same Court ruled against doctor-assisted suicide in the case of B.C. resident Sue Rodriguez, a 42-year-old mother suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Rodriguez argued that the Criminal Code’s section 241(b), which prohibits the assistance of suicide and makes it punishable by up to 14 years in prison, violated the Charter right to life, liberty, and security of the person.


Feature Image: Justice system via Shutterstock

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