Canadians Have A Right To Assisted Suicide, High Court Says
In a unanimous ruling, Canada's supreme court struck down the country's law that bans doctor-assisted suicide Friday. The court said the law denies people the right "to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care" and leaves them "to endure intolerable suffering."
The ruling includes several provisions:
- Patients must be competent adults who clearly consent to terminating their life.
- They must be suffering from "a grievous and irremediable medical condition ... that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable."
- Physicians cannot be compelled to assist those who want to die.
In its analysis, the court wrote, "the prohibition 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."
The court suspended its ruling from taking effect for 12 months, to give the government time to amend its laws. It called the prohibition on assisted suicide overly broad.
"While the ruling sets out specific criteria, it leaves some questions," Canada's CBC notes. "The decision is silent, for example, on whether depression or mental illness counts as a medical condition. The court does include psychological pain under the criteria of enduring and intolerable suffering."
Citing "the principles of fundamental justice," the court wrote that the existing ban had not been meant "to preserve life whatever the circumstances, but more specifically to protect vulnerable persons from being induced to commit suicide at a time of weakness."
The Globe and Mail offers this historic perspective:
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