February 6, 2015
The court said its ruling will come into effect in 12 months. When it does, Canada will join a tiny group of countries, mostly in Europe, and some American states, that allow assisted suicide under some conditions.
The court noted Canada’s criminal law aimed to protect vulnerable people but is “overbroad” because it catches everyone in its safety net. It upheld a lower court decision that concluded, “on the basis of evidence from scientists, medical practitioners and others who are familiar with end‑of‑life decision‑making in Canada and abroad, that a permissive regime with properly designed and administered safeguards was capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error. “
Section 241 (b) of the Criminal Code says that everyone who aids or abets a person in committing suicide commits an indictable offence, and s. 14 says that no person may consent to death being inflicted on them. Together, these provisions prohibit the provision of assistance in dying in Canada.(A lower court judge) found that the prohibition against physician‑assisted dying violates the s. 7 rights of competent adults who are suffering intolerably as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition and concluded that this infringement is not justified under s. 1 of the Charter . She declared the prohibition unconstitutional, granted a one‑year suspension of invalidity and provided T with a constitutional exemption.
…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 declaration of invalidity is suspended for 12 months.… Insofar as they prohibit physician‑assisted dying for competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering, ss. 241 (b) and 14 of the Criminal Code deprive these adults of their right to life, liberty and security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter . The right to life is engaged where the law or state action imposes death or an increased risk of death on a person, either directly or indirectly. Here, 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 rights to liberty and security of the person, which deal with concerns about autonomy and quality of life, are also engaged. An individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy. The prohibition denies people in this situation the right to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care and thus trenches on their liberty. And by leaving them to endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of the person.The prohibition on physician‑assisted dying infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The object of the prohibition is not, broadly, to preserve life whatever the circumstances, but more specifically to protect vulnerable persons from being induced to commit suicide at a time of weakness. Since a total ban on assisted suicide clearly helps achieve this object, individuals’ rights are not deprived arbitrarily. However, the prohibition catches people outside the class of protected persons.
Quebec legalizes doctor-assisted death, F&O blog report, June, 2014
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