Canada’s Supreme Court Rules That Citizens Have A Right To Medically-Assisted Suicide

The Supreme Court in Quebec has removed the ban on medically-assisted suicide throughout Canada. The country had begun medically-assisted suicide for citizens who are terminally ill and in severe pain.

The beginning of the suicide “right” conversation began in 1991 in British Columbia with Sue Rodriguez. Sue was battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and went to the Supreme Court, only to be denied. According to the Atlantic, Rodriguez still managed to kill herself without medical assisted and started a national conversation on the subject.

Charles Smith, a political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan, can recall when assisted suicide was widely seen a negative thing amongst Canadians.

“There was a big splash on these questions in the 1980s and early ’90s, which started to slow down a bit but now we’re seeing the courts revisit some of those cases and rethink some of their earlier decisions.”

On Friday, the Supreme Court made a unanimous 9-0 decision that Canadians have the right to medically-assisted suicide, deeming it unconstitutional to deny citizens that right.

The Canadian constitutional reads, “[T]he right to life liberty and the security of the person.”

Charles Smith attributes this success to a well-drafted Charter and well-planned court appearance.

“I think the framers of the Charter had this very much in mind when they drafted it, that these were the kind of questions the court would tackle because they’re so difficult politically to tackle them. On these broad moral issues — euthanasia, abortion, prostitution — sometimes politicians feel constrained from weighing in for fear of alienating people.”

Jamie Cameroon, Osgoode Hall law professor and former clerk of the Supreme Court, has expressed that the court decision shows the strength of the government.

“Unanimity makes the court look strong on a day like today, but paradoxically it may also show the court’s weakness.”

This strength has been thought to have been influenced in more ways than one.

According to Cameron, “Some might say the court has been provoked to some extent by some of the current legislative policies.”

Ms. Cameron even went as far as to suggest that Chief Judge McLachlin has influenced decision-making in this matter.

“Either the judges don’t have differences of opinion, which is hard to believe, or differences of opinion are being set aside for compromise and unanimity, which in my opinion is not a good thing.”

The 12-month deadline for drafting legislation may not be possible for the government to meet. A summer break is scheduled for members of parliament this coming June, which would cause many not to return to Parliament Hill until after the election.

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