Bioethics Blogs

Canadian Supreme Court: Legal Assisted Suicide In a Year

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

A year from now, all Canadians may have the right to assisted suicide. In February 6, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled “that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where (1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.” In other words, a competent and capacitated person with a serious and unresolvable condition that creates suffering has a right to have assistance to end his or her life.

This case has its origins in two cases. The first was Gloria Taylor who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2009. Ms. Taylor did want to watch herself slowly disintegrate so she challenged the ban on assisted suicide in British Columbia Supreme Court. As Ms. Taylor’s condition worsened she feared that she would be unable to request physician-assisted suicide came when she needed it because of its legal status and her lack of funds to travel to receive aid-in-dying. Thus, Taylor claimed she had a choice of suicide before she was ready or giving up any ability to control her death. Taylor died in 2012 from an infection.

A second case joined the first. Lee Carter and Hollis Johnson assisted in Kathleen (Kay) Carter’s death by taking her to Switzerland to die with the assistance of DIGNITAS in 2010.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.