A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada will help aid suffering patients who wish to end their life with physician assistance.
On Friday morning, Supreme Court judges voted unanimously 9-0 to strike down the Criminal Code’s 21-year-old law against assisted suicide and declared that the “right to life is not limited to a right not to die.”
The decision comes after two British Columbia women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, launched the case against the ban. Carter and Taylor, who have both since died, had the constitutional challenge brought on by the British Columbia Civil Liberties association on behalf of their families.
“The decision was based entirely on section 7, which consists of three separate rights that are related; that’s the right to life, liberty and security,” said Graham Hudson, the undergraduate program director for the department of criminology at Ryerson. “If physician-assisted suicide is not available they have two choices: one is to live with the disease to the very end which is very painful, the other is to take their life while they still can.”
But the court ruling isn’t the end of the conversation on assisted suicide.
“The court has said that you cannot criminalize physician-assisted suicide but you certainly have to regulate it. That (will) take time.” said Hudson.
The ban on assisted suicide will remain in place for the next 12 months while the federal and provincial governments draw up legislation in response to the ruling. If no new law is written, the court’s decision will sustain.