Doctor-Assisted Suicide Ban Upheld

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British Colombia’s Court of Appeal has upheld Canada’s ban on assisted suicide, which has left those arguing for euthanasia more determined to fight for those who are undergoing an unbearable and intolerable dying process. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has vowed to take this decision and appeal it to the Supreme Court of Canada. Proponents of doctor-assisted suicide argue that the federal government has no right to decide on behalf of those who are incurable and gravely ill, and should have no say in how much care they wish to receive at the end of their life. Proponents argue that the federal government is prolonging the suffering of Canadians who wish to opt for doctor-assisted suicide over the irreversible decline in their quality of life.

The split decision by British Colombia’s high court saw two of the three judges rule that while public perception and sentiments have evolved since the landmark 1993 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Rodriguez v. British Colombia (Attorney General), it has not changed enough to overturn the two-decade old verdict. The ruling touched on public sentiments, saying that while things have evolved and the mindset towards euthanasia is more progressive and open-minded, permitting physician-assisted suicide in Canada and enshrining it as a constitutional right seriously concerns Canadians.

Edward Prutschi, an expert legal analyst and frequent media contributor, joined Ben Mulroney on Canada AM to discuss the legal significance of this ruling. Mr. Prutschi gives some background into this ruling. The British Colombia Supreme Court had ruled in 2012 that doctor-assisted suicide would be permitted under certain conditions, and the British Colombia Court of Appeal had overturned that and essentially sided with the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1993 ruling that the ban on doctor-assisted suicide should be upheld, regardless of circumstances.

Mr. Prutschi talks about the impact that this ruling will have: on one hand, legally speaking, not much has changed, but on another hand, on a societal level, there is a tilt towards “shifting thoughts” and public perception on doctor-assisted suicide. This, Mr. Prutschi argues, will impact and affect the ruling that the Supreme Court of Canada will come down with if they decided to revisit this case.

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