Making the announcement today, the court declared that “an individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy.”
The Supreme Court’s decision reverses its own decision two decades ago and gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives. The current ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until then.
The judgment said the ban infringes on the life, liberty and security of individuals under Canada’s constitution. It had been illegal in Canada to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, an offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years
“The law allows people in this situation to request palliative sedation, refuse artificial nutrition and hydration, or request the removal of life-sustaining medical equipment, but denies the right to request a physician’s assistance in dying,” the ruling noted.
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Colombia, Japan and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana. Euthanasia is currently legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
BREAKING: Canada’s top court rules doctors can help kill patients; overturns assisted suicide law
LifeSiteNews 6 February 2015
In a momentous ruling this morning, Canada’s highest court unanimously ruled to open the door to a doctor helping kill someone nearing the end-of-life stage, a ruling comparable to the sweeping Morgentaler ruling 27 years ago that allowed a doctor to kill someone at the earliest pre-born stage of life.
In Carter v. Canada, the Court overturned a previous law prohibiting assisted suicide, in effect reversing the previous 1993 Rodriguez decision in which it said the state’s obligation to “protect the vulnerable” outweighed the rights of the individual to self-determination. The ruling makes Canada join the ranks of Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as Oregon and Washington, in allowing assisted suicide.
“Section 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s. 7 of the Charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that 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,” the court stated in the 9-0 ruling that affects the lives of every Canadian who is, or may be, terminally ill.
The Criminal Code had stated that “every one who (a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or (b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide, whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence.” What the court calls doctor assisted death means allowing one person, a doctor, to be directly and intentionally involved in killing another person, a patient, according to certain criteria.
The court gave the federal government 12 months to rectify what it says is a Charter violation of rights before the ruling takes effect.
Life and family leaders have reacted to the news with dismay.
“In striking down Rodriguez, our highest court told Canadians today that the lives of the weak, infirm, and vulnerable are not worth protecting. The court in essence decided that some people are better off dead than alive and gave power to those who are strong to end the lives of those who are weak. This is a terrible day of shame for Canada,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, to LifeSiteNews.
“We as a country have entered into utter moral blindness if we honestly believe that killing someone in the name of ‘compassion’ or ‘mercy’ is a solution to the problem of pain or debilitation. All life is a gift, and no one has the moral right to take that gift away from someone else. This law used to be called: ‘You shall not kill.’ It is always a false compassion to kill someone who is suffering. There is no dignity in killing the patient instead of the pain.”
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, called it a “terrible decision.”
“Legalizing assisted suicide will create new paths of abuse of elders, people with disabilities and other socially devalued people. The scourge of elder abuse in our culture continues to grow,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“The first act of Parliament must be to use the notwithstanding clause to continue to equally protect every Canadian. Then Parliament and the provincial governments must commit to providing Canadians with the care that they require and deserve.”