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Canada Will Legalize Doctor Assisted Suicide
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The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that physician-assisted suicide is now legal.

Summary: The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that physician-assisted suicide will be legalized, bringing both praise and criticism from the country’s citizens.

BBC reports that Canada will be the next jurisdiction to allow patients to end their lives with the assistance of a physician. A 1993 ban prohibited the practice, but the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously ruled that patients who have severe and incurable medical conditions may seek the aid of a doctor to bring their suffering to an end.


In the decision, the court explained that the law infringed upon the rights of Canadians. A civil rights group originally brought the action on behalf of two women, Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter, who suffered from degenerative diseases. Taylor had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and passed away in 2012. Carter suffered from spinal stenosis, which is a progressive compression of the spinal cord. Carter traveled to Switzerland in 2010, where the act is legal, and ended her life.

Now that the court has ruled, the Canadian government will have up to a year to update its assisted suicide laws. If it does not rewrite the law within this timeframe, its current law will be struck down.

Grace Pastine of British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the organization that brought the case, said, “This is one incredible day. Physician-assisted dying is now recognized for what it is—a medical service that brings an end, for some individuals, to unbearable suffering.”

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The justices noted in the opinion that they “did not agree that the existential formulation of the right to life requires an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying, or that individuals cannot ‘waive’ their right to life.”

According to the ruling, doctor-assisted suicide will be limited to consenting adults with an incurable (but not necessarily terminal) disease that causes “enduring and intolerable suffering.”

In the opinion, the justices also commented that a total ban on doctor-assisted suicide “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.”

Several European countries, and a handful of states in the United States, have legalized assisted suicide.  Last year, Bloomberg reported that New Mexico ruled that a patient had the right to die. In Canada, one may be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison for counseling, aiding, or abetting a suicide.

Vermont also allows physician-assisted suicide.

The assisted suicide issue has been hitting the mainstream media in waves. Last year, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old California resident, was suffering from an incurable form of brain cancer. Maynard moved to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. California has prohibited the practice since 1997. According to Wikipedia, Maynard was diagnosed with grade 2 astrocytoma on January 1, 2014. After a surgery, the cancer returned in April, and the diagnosis was elevated to grade 4 astrocytoma. Maynard was given six months to live. On November 1, Maynard posted the following to Facebook before ending her life: “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me…but would have taken so much more.”

A legal case is also pending in New York.

Last year, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones spoke out about his fiance’s suicide.

Politicians in the United Kingdom are also working on legalizing assisted suicide, however, the government does not back the practice.

Switzerland does allow assisted suicide, and its laws actually do not require one to have a terminal illness. The act must be performed by a patient. Switzerland’s laws have led to a form of “suicide tourism” across Europe.

In 2012, it was reported that five out of every one thousand deaths was due to assisted suicide.

The debate is ongoing between those who think the practice is unethical and express concern for vulnerable, disabled patients and those who feel that assisted dying is a human right. Religious groups in Canada opposed the lifting of the ban, and the issue has caused a rift in the disability-rights community as well.

Source: BBC

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