Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that doctors may help patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions to die, overturning a 1993 ban.
In a unanimous decision, the court said the law impinged on Canadians’ rights.
The case was brought by a civil rights group on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, with degenerative diseases. Both have since died.
Wow. Eric MacDonald has been campaigning on this issue for years.
The government has to write a new law within a year or the law will be struck down.
Assisted suicide is legal in several European countries and a few US states.
In Canada is it illegal to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, and the offence carries up to 14 years in prison.
Which is why Eric got a visit from the police after he accompanied his wife Elizabeth to Zurich. They didn’t prosecute him though…but they could have. The worst is, she died earlier than she needed to because she was determined to do it while she still could.
In the ruling, the justices wrote they “did not agree that the existential formulation of the right to life requires an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying, or that individuals cannot ‘waive’ their right to life”.
The court limited doctor-assisted suicide to patients who are consenting adults, who have a incurable but not necessarily terminal disease that causes “enduring and intolerable suffering”.
Wo – that “not necessarily terminal” makes it an even bigger deal. There’s an issue with stipulating that the disease has to be terminal, given that some non-terminal diseases can be such misery.
The justices also argued the total ban on doctor-assisted suicide “deprives some individuals of life, as it has the effect of forcing some individuals to take their own lives prematurely, for fear that they would be incapable of doing so when they reached the point where suffering was intolerable”.
Bingo. Exactly. That’s why Eric’s wife Elizabeth insisted on going to Zurich prematurely. The reality of the Oregon and Washington laws has been that fewer people than expected get doctor-assisted suicide: once it’s available, the urgency goes away.
This issue may be like abortion in the US: it may be better to have it decided by legislators than by courts. Then again it may be like segregation: it may be better to have the high court firmly strike down the underlying principle.