Assisted Dying Law

January 18, 2016 by  

Assisted Dying Law, In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court of Canada has granted the federal government a four-month extension to pass assisted dying legislation, rather than the six months the government had asked for.

The court also ruled that Quebec’s assisted dying law, which came into effect in December, can remain in effect. Earlier Friday, CBC News confirmed a Quebec City patient had died with the assistance of a doctor, a Canadian legal first.

The court also ruled that, in fairness to Canadians outside Quebec, those wishing to exercise their right to die with the help of a doctor can apply to a superior court in their home province for “relief in accordance with the criteria” set out in the high court’s ruling last February. The ruling noted this was the first time the Supreme Court had been asked to grant individual exemptions of this kind.

“In agreeing that more time is needed, we do not at the same time see any need to unfairly prolong the suffering of those who meet the clear criteria we set out” in the 2015 ruling, the majority said in the decision.

Those criteria stipulate that a person must be a “competent adult who clearly consents to the termination of life” and who “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 using the word “irremediable,” the court said patients were not required to undertake treatments they deemed unacceptable.

Elayne Shapray, a 69-year-old grandmother who has multiple sclerosis, has been involved in the case since 2011. (CBC)

Elayne Shapray, who has multiple sclerosis, has been involved in the case since 2011. She says she has mixed feelings about today’s decision.

“Well I was elated when the Supreme Court originally came down with their unanimous decision to allow physician assisted dying,” she said. “I was disappointed when they granted an extension. But I think now, as of Feb. 6, all Canadians will be entitled to choose, when life becomes intolerable, they can choose to leave.”

Shapray said only a person who is suffering “can know how much is enough and I think that unless you’re in that position you can’t make that choice for someone else.”

“And it was very important for suffering people to know that they had a way out and there was a way to protect the slippery slope that people talk about and I think that’s what the court has done, is given people the choice.”

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