Canada’s Supreme Court gives green light to assisted suicide

January 17, 2016

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday (Jan 15) to allow doctor-assisted suicide across the country under certain circumstances, while giving the government more time to pass a law governing the practice.


The decision came as officials confirmed that a patient had already been helped to die in Quebec.

The court had overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide last February, putting Canada in the company of a handful of Western countries to make it legal.

But it had said the decision would not take effect for a year, giving the government time to produce legislation.


The work got off schedule because of the October election and the defeat of the Conservative government by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. The newly elected justice minister had asked for the decision to be suspended for an extra six months.

Instead, the court gave the go-ahead for assisted suicide to begin now under certain conditions and granted the federal government four more months to come up with a national law.


Polls show physician-assisted suicide has broad support but the issue has divided politicians in Parliament as they grapple with how to protect vulnerable Canadians while respecting their rights and choices at the end of life.


The Supreme Court ruling said people outside Quebec can apply to their provincial superior court for judicial authorization “to those who wish to exercise their rights” to doctor-assisted death.

Friday’s decision was split 5-4, with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and three others disagreeing with giving an exemption to Quebec and to other individuals.


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