Canada Edges Closer to Legalising Assisted Suicide
The issue of euthanasia in Canada is no longer simmering on a back burner. After the Supreme Court of British Columbia found yesterday that Criminal Code provisions which prohibit doctors from helping their patients commit suicide are unconstitutional, it is on a full, rolling boil. In the landmark decision, Justice Lynn Smith set down that if suicide is legal, preventing handicapped persons from taking their lives must be discriminatory.
Judge Smith gave Canada’s Parliament a year to draft a law permitting assisted suicide. In the meantime she granted the principal plaintiff in the case, Gloria Taylor, an exemption. This makes Ms Taylor’s doctor the only person in the country who may now legally help someone commit suicide. The conditions set down by the judge are very similar to those across the border in the US states of Washington and Oregon for physician-assisted suicide.
Ms Taylor, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) released a statement which read: “I am deeply grateful to have the comfort of knowing that I’ll have a choice at the end of my life. This is a blessing for me, and other seriously and incurably ill individuals. This decision allows me to approach my death in the same way I have tried to live my life - with dignity, independence and grace.”
The controversial case was initiated by Ms Taylor, four other individuals and the BC Civil Liberties Association. They sought to have the court overturn a 1993 judgement by the Supreme Court of Canada. Sue Rodriguez, who also suffered from ALS, applied for help in committing suicide. The court denied her request but she subsequently committed suicide with the help of an anonymous physician a few months later.