Supreme Court of Canada strikes down law against assisted suicide

February 7, 2015 1:58 pm 

OTTAWA, Feb. 7 — Canada's Supreme Court on Friday unanimously struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for mentally competent patients suffering from an incurable disease and ordered the Parliament to give these patients greater control over how they die.

In a stunning reversal of its ruling in 1993, the court declared that 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 ban breached 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 concluded 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.

Because the law did not set out a scheme that would minimally impair those rights, it cannot stand, the court ruled.

The court also listed out a number of conditions in which assisted suicide would be allowed.

Friday's decision was spurred by the families of two women Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor from British Columbia, each suffering from different debilitating conditions. Both women have since died.

In Carter's case her family escorted her to Switzerland, which allows physician-assisted suicide. The constitutional challenge was brought by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association on behalf of their families.(PNA/Xinhua)



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