High court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted death - Macleans.ca

High court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted death

Decision gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation recognizing rights of consenting adults enduring intolerable suffering

Carmine Marinelli /Vancouver 24hrs/QMI

Carmine Marinelli /Vancouver 24hrs/QMI

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death to mentally competent but suffering and “irremediable” patients.

The historic and groundbreaking decision from the country’s top court sweeps away the existing law and gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives.

The judgment, which is unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court, says the current ban infringes on all three of the life, liberty and security of person provisions in the Charter, and it does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

The pressure will now be on Parliament to act in an election year, as the court says no exemptions may be granted for those seeking to end their lives during the 12-month suspension of the judgment.

The case was brought by the families of two now-deceased British Columbia women, supported by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Gloria Taylor, who had a neurodegenerative disease, eventually died of an infection. Kay Carter, then 89, travelled to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is allowed.

Taylor had won a constitutional exemption at a lower court for a medically assisted death in 2012, but that decision was overturned in subsequent appeals.

Today’s judgment comes 21 years after a nearly identical challenge was rejected by the top court in a case that made Sue Rodgriguez a household name in Canada.


High court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted death

  1. Well thank goodness for small mercies….now do it right and stop the nonsense about what is or isn’t ‘intolerable’ pain.

    ‘Angels on the head of a pin’ crap

    My body, my choice….get out of the way.

  2. How bizarre. In another article, on this same website, I’m told that:
    It goes on to say the building “should reflect the impartiality and apolitical aspirations of Canada’s justice system.” This seems to echo the concerns of Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

    And now this same “apolitical” justice system goes on to decide a very political question.

    • The question isn’t political….it isn’t even a question.

      It’s individual choice.

      • Legislation on what our tax-funded healthcare system will support isn’t political?

        *** slowly backing away from the crazy person ***

        • “Apolitical” in the sense of not being involved in setting political policy. This is distinct from interpreting the law. You’ll note they have left it to the government to write a new law that is consistent with the Charter.

          Also – most of the people who will end up being able to make use of this change in the law will, by the nature of their illnesses, be eating up quite a bit of health care costs. If the cost of publicly funded health care is your primary concern here, then this decision should actually make your wallet-shaped heart feel happy.

          • Making euthanasia legal sure seems to me like making policy.

            You’ll note they have left it to the government to write a new law that is consistent with the Charter.

            Yeah they’re not actually going to write a bill. They just told the government what to put in the bill. You dont get much more political than that.

            But these hypocrites then turn around and harp on about their impartiality and apolitical aspirations. What utter nonsense. It’s pathetic that so-called journalists dont have the courage to call them out on it.

            The Supreme Court decided the issue of euthanasia back in the 90’s with the Sue Rodriguez case. They found the prohibition of euthanasia to be consistent with the Charter. What changed between then and now? The composition of the Court that’s what. The Court went from judges who politically disagreed with euthanasia to judges who politically agreed with euthanasia. The text of these decisions is always a
            pathetic attempt at camouflaging personal opinion as legal reasoning. And then they claim to be apolitical. You really have to be an idiot to believe them.

          • You referenced Geddes’ article and included the “apolitical” quote. The term, as used there, means that the justice system stays out of electoral, party politics. It also means they do not independently advocate positions. It does not mean there are no political consequences stemming from their decisions.

            However, it is their responsibility to review and interpret the law when asked to do so. That is what happened here. They weigh the evidence before them and review both legislation and case law to try to determine, to their best ability, how the law applies to the facts before them.

            As to your question as to what has changed, you might try actually reading the decision to see. But here is a synopsis taken from the headnote to the decision found at https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14637/index.do :

            “The trial judge was entitled to revisit this Court’s decision in Rodriguez. Trial courts may reconsider settled rulings of higher courts in two situations: (1) where a new legal issue is raised; and (2) where there is a change in the circumstances or evidence that fundamentally shifts the parameters of the debate. Here, both conditions were met.”

            Surely you aren’t so pigheaded that you refuse to change your mind when presented with new arguments and new evidence that you had not encountered before. Why then would you expect the court to ignore new facts and arguments?

            The decision, BTW, does not give doctors the unfettered right to assist with a suicide (and I doubt very much that there are any who would want or accept such an option). It is very limited in scope:

            “[127] The appropriate remedy is therefore a declaration that s. 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code are void insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition. “Irremediable,” it should be added, does not require the patient to undertake treatments that are not acceptable to the individual. The scope of this declaration is intended to respond to the factual circumstances in this case. We make no pronouncement on other situations where physician‑assisted dying may be sought.” [My emphasis.]

            I’ve only skimmed over the decision so far. But it seems a well reasoned decision (and I’ve read a few bad ones in my time; spent a decade editing and publishing full-text decisions, and more than two decades and counting in the broader legal publishing sphere). It definitely isn’t about politics, but about fairness and quality of life. Go give it a read.

        • It’s ‘medical care’….’health care’…..and not political, or crazy for that matter.

          It’s less law, less restriction, less money….more freedom.

          Don’t write any laws at all….leave it to the patient and the doctor.

          • There was a law including a prohibition. The prohibition has been removed by the Courts. That is necessarily political.

            It’s political whether you agree with the decision or not. And that’s the point: some people agree, some people disagree. It’s a question of political opinion.

            It will always amaze me the extent to which some people have no difficulty holding entirely contradictory notions:
            -Supreme Court strikes a blow against social conservatives
            -Supreme Court is apolitical

            In my case, Im happy about the policy, in fact I would go even further, I would support a law that euthanizes everyone who is on social assistance.

            But to suggest that this is “apolitical” as a way to preserve some kind of sanctity of the justice system, is pure nonsense. The court is apolitical when it rules, based on evidence and an interpretation of the law, a dispute between two parties.

            But when the court decides whether legislation complies with the Charter, it’s necessarily political. The Charter basically says “good legislation is ok, bad legislation is invalid”. Any decision on that is political by definition.

          • Leaving a prohibition in when the question arises means the law was political in the first place. LOL

            You are just trying to find something to rattle on about.

          • Leaving a prohibition in when the question arises means the law was political in the first place.

            Obviously. You dont even need your premise of “leaving a prohibition”. The law was/is political is true all by itself. It holds true for pretty much any law that’s currently on the books.

            But there is a difference in leaving a law alone and striking it down, the latter being far more political. Parliament could have made euthanasia legal without the Supreme Court. Now Parliament is barred from making euthanasia illegal.

          • LOL bored on a Friday aft eh Nerd?

          • Now Parliament is barred from making euthanasia illegal.

            No, they are barred from making it illegal under a very specific set of conditions. They are free to restrict it to just that set of conditions.