Today, 21 years after Sue Rodiguez’s story made the headlines, history has been made again in Canada with the striking down of the current assisted suicide laws – sections 241 and 14 in Canada’s criminal code which, essentially, prohibit aiding or counselling another person to end their life.
Here is a link to the Supreme Court’s actual ruling which outlines that a physician may not help someone end their own life. There are specific conditions attached to this ruling: First, the person involved must be a competent adult who consents to have their life ended. Second, the person must be experiencing what they have called “endless suffering” as a result of a “grievous or irremediable” illness, disease or disability.
This ruling will now be turned over to the government, as the two sections of the Criminal Code which prevent people from consenting to their own deaths or allow others to aid in their suicide become no long valid after a year. So the government will have to draft new rules and ensure policies and safeguards in place to protect those most vulnerable while also ensuring that the new rules reflect the aims and values underpinning the ruling. They’ll also have to anticipate how this might play out as there will be both federal and provincial involvement in any new legislation. Quebec already has its own right to die law which came into effect in June 2014. Finally, any new legislation that is eventually brought forward based on this ruling may well be appealed, again.