Friday, February 06, 2015
Canada’s Supreme Court removes ban on assisted dying—ruling cites compelling logic
by Larry Geller
The Guardian reported today that the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the ban on assisted suicide, recognizing that people with terminal illnesses have a right to ask a doctor for medical help to die.
The article describes what at first glance appears to be a perverse application of logic: that the ban on physician-assisted suicide actually infringed on the patient’s right to life.
For the explanation, here is a snip from the Guardian article:
A key part of the court’s decision was that the criminal ban on physician-assisted death actually infringed on patients’ right to 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.”
[Grace Pastine, the litigation director for the Civil Liberties Association of British Columbia] said the evidence put before the court showing this counter-intuitive part of the argument was “incredibly important”.
“It really illustrated the extent to which these laws, as an absolute ban [on physician-assisted death], are not fulfilling their function. The laws purport to save lives, but in fact lives are being lost prematurely. Individuals who fear that they are going to be trapped in a terrible dying process are forced into deciding whether to take their own lives while they still can, or be trapped in a dying body,” she said.
Canada's highest court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted dying (The Guardian (UK), 2/6/2015)
This is an argument that, if not made already in cases pending in the USA, would appear to be as compelling here as it was in Canada.