Bioethics News

Canada’s ‘euthanasia courts’

Because Canada’s federal government still has not passed euthanasia legislation, the High Court has authorised provincial courts to arbitrate on requests for euthanasia.

In a ruling which also ratified Quebec’s new euthanasia laws, the court said that people outside Quebec “who wish to exercise their rights” to doctor-assisted death may apply to their provincial superior court for judicial authorization.

 “Those who wish to seek assistance from a physician in accordance with the criteria set out in … our reasons in Carter may apply to the superior court of their jurisdiction for relief during the extended period of suspension,” the court said Friday. “Requiring judicial authorization during that interim period ensures compliance with the rule of law and provides an effective safeguard against potential risks to vulnerable people.”

It is unclear how exactly the courts will judge the applications.

Some were pleased with the decision, saying it was time that certain people under particular circumstances were given a say in when and how their lives should end.

Conservative bioethicist Wesley Smith saw the decision as an adieu to the Canada of yesteryear:

“This is just stunning. A judge is going to dispassionately review an application to be killed, and then, rule thumbs up or down…Poor Canada. We hardly knew ye.” 

This article is published by Xavier Symons and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees.

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.