Human Rights

Courts in Canada approve doctor assisted suicide

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The day has come and the door has now been opened for doctor assisted suicide to become a reality in Canada. In a unanimous decision the Canadian Supreme Court ruled to overturn the nations ban on doctor assisted suicide. This decision reverses the one made in the 1993 Rodriquez case in which the court ruled the states obligation  to “protect the vulnerable” outweighed the rights of the individual to self determination.

In the present case, Carter v. Canada the Canadian Supreme court changed it’s opinion, declaring the law denies people the right “to make decisions concerning their bodily integrity and medical care” and leaves them “to endure intolerable suffering”.

As NPR reports the courts ruling has several provisions. Patients who desire to end their life must be competent adults who give their consent. Those seeking doctor assisted suicide must be suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable.” In addition, “physicians cannot be compelled to assist those wanting to die.”

The Court’s decision received strong criticism from those involved in the work of protecting human life in all  its stages. Jim Hughes, national president of the Campaign Life Coalition told LifeSiteNews:

“In striking down Rodriguez, our highest court told Canadians today that the lives of the weak, infirm, and vulnerable are not worth protecting. The court in essence decided that some people are better off dead than alive and gave power to those who are strong to end the lives of those who are weak. This is a terrible day of shame for Canada”.

Although the Canadian court has made ‘provisions’ for doctor assisted suicide, Hughes along with other family leaders fear those provisions will offer little protection.

Hughes said:

“Some people say there’s no such thing as a ‘slippery slope.’ Once a line has been crossed that allows one person to kill another in some instances, the qualifying criteria will just keep on expanding in the name of ‘equal rights.’ Pretty soon anybody who wants to die for any reason will be able to do so.”

Hughes referenced Belgium’s assisted suicide laws that have expanded to include children as well a growing rate ‘suicide tourism’ in Switzerland. Studies show over 600 non-Swiss residents came to the country between 2008-2012 to be killed.  Hughes is certain that  same slippery slope will take place in Canada.

The new ruling won’t be in effect for another 12 months. A year has been given to federal and provincial governments to create legislation to go along with the ruling. As of now the ban on doctor assisted suicide is still valid.

Canada’s recent ruling will have an impact of the world at large. In the United States, ‘Death with Dignity’ law advocates are pushing for doctor assisted suicide to be legal across the nation. Presently laws allowing doctor assisted suicide exist in the states of Vermont, Washington and Oregon. In 2009 the Montana Supreme Court ruled that a doctor who helps a mentally competent and terminally ill patient end their life will not be held criminally responsible if the patient has given consent.

Brittany Maynard, spokesperson for Compassion & Choices became a public figure when her decision to end her life through doctor assisted suicide became national news. Since Brittany’s passing her husband and mother have focused their efforts on fighting for doctor assisted suicide to be legal in California.

Supporters of doctor assisted suicide argue that the right to die is a personal choice that belongs to a terminally ill person and their family. The words ‘choice’ and ‘right’ that are used to justify the taking of unborn life, are now used to justify taking the life of the sick, disabled and the dying. The battle for life begins in the womb and it extends itself to the end of natural life. As pro-lifers we must not shy away from this debate, but inject ourselves into the global conversation with truth, respect and love.

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