The British Colombia Court of Appeal upheld a ban on physician-assisted suicide in a split decision. The ruling by British Colombia’s highest court overturned a 2012 decision that found the ban on doctor-assisted suicide to terminally ill Canadians to be unconstitutional. Public interest in euthanasia is soaring, and the British Colombia Civil Liberties Association has promised to take their fight to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The landmark ruling of Carter v. Canada was appealed by the federal government, which specified that voluntary euthanasia is permissible under strict conditions. The legal question in the case largely revolves around the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom sections that relate to the right to life and equality rights. Some proponents argue that the definition of life under the Charter should be expanded and encapsulate more than a person having vital signs, such as a brainwave or a heartbeat. Proponents argue that the legal question of euthanasia should go beyond mere biological constrictions and it must be looked at from an ethical and moral prism, and other factors should also be considered.
In June 2012, the British Colombia Supreme Court had ruled that voluntary euthanasia would be allowed if a strict criteria was met, giving patients suffering from an intolerable level of pain the option to be euthanized by a doctor. The last time the Supreme Court of Canada considered euthanasia was in 1993, when Sue Rodriguez, who was suffering from Lou Gherig’s disease, advocated the legal right to physician-assisted suicide. The Supreme Court landmark decision in Rodriguez v. British Colombia (Attorney General) ruled that no one could legally assist in another’s death, regardless of the circumstances.
Edward Prutschi, an expert legal guest, appeared on CTV News to discuss this legally-complex and once-taboo subject. Mr. Prutschi starts off by discussing that thus far, the legal landscape, in regards to euthanasia, has not changed much since doctor-assisted suicide is still categorically illegal. However, there has been a shift in the public discourse, where many argue that the two-decades old ban is outdated and the legality of it must revisited with a more modern and humane perspective. Mr. Prutschi predicts that because the question of physician-assisted suicide is of national importance, the Supreme Court of Canada will have to take a second look at this and come to a decision. Mr. Prutschi discusses how the Supreme Court of Canada is a microcosm of society to some extent, and Canada’s high court is more dynamic and different than it was 20 years ago, and we can potentially see a different verdict if the Supreme Court rules on this issue.