The landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision of Carter v. Canada was released today, overturning a BC Court of Appeal decision banning doctor-assisted death. Our BC trial court decision was quoted largely with approval.
The long-awaited decision was unanimous. Brought in 2009 by a woman with a fatal neurodegenerative disease, the appeal was a constitutional challenge to the criminal code provisions which prohibited her from seeking assistance in dying. The BC Civil Liberties Association joined the action. The court held that the appellant fell into a class of persons who was mentally competent, but enduring intolerable suffering as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical conditions.
The 148 paragraph decision was rendered by “the Court”, and unsigned to indicate the institutional weight of the unanimous decision. The Court suspended the offending provisions of the criminal code on the basis that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, and as such the provisions are “invalid.” The court reasoned that a blanket prohibition on physician assistance to die is overbroad, and not necessary to meet the government’s objective of protecting vulnerable individuals.
The Parliament must now, in an election year, grapple with the invalid provisions and has stated that it will take its time in considering its response.
To read the decision in its entirety, click on…