By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – February 6, 2015
Supreme Court strikes down assisted suicide ban
In a stunning reversal of its ruling 21 years ago, Canada’s highest court has struck down the law against assisted suicide and ordered Parliament to give desperately suffering patients greater control over how they die.
In a 9-0 ruling Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada declared the Criminal Code’s absolute ban goes too far in its attempt to protect the lives of “vulnerable people” by preventing competent, consenting adults suffering “grievous and irremediable medical conditions” from making core decisions about how they live and die.
The judges said the law is therefore an unconstitutional breach of three of the most basic rights: to life, liberty and security of the person, all enshrined in section 7 of the Charter, and cannot be justified in a free democratic society.
The court read those basic rights broadly and, agreeing with a B.C. trial judge, said the right to life is not limited to a “right not to die.”
“This would create a duty to live,” rather than a “right to life and would call into question the legality of any consent to the withdrawal or refusal of life-saving or life-sustaining treatment,” the court said.
It said that an individual’s response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition “is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy” and the absolute ban on seeking a doctor’s help to die removes their ability “to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care and thus trenches on liberty.” It said that by leaving patients to “endure intolerable suffering, it impinges on their security of the person.”
Because the law did not set out a scheme that would minimally impair those rights, it cannot stand, the court ruled. (Source: Toronto Star)