Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour of assisted-suicide

by jpd95 on February 9, 2015 - 10:20pm

It is okay for people in an enormous amount of pain to bring their lives to an end with the help of a doctor.  Sean Fine of The Globe and Mail wrote on Friday, the sixth of February 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, unanimously, that “the ‘sanctity of life’ also includes the ‘passage into death’ extends constitutional rights into a new realm”. 

The Court stated that people have a “constitutional right to autonomy over one’s death in some circumstances” and these circumstances include people that suffer “severely and irremediably” whether that pain is physical or psychological.  The Court also stated that people in an enormous amount of pain with no possible positive outcome have two options: taken their “own life prematurely” which is oftentimes done through violent or dangerous manners, or the person can decide to “suffer until [they] die from natural causes”; the Court went on to say that the choice is “ ‘cruel’”.

The Court suspended the ruling for a period of 12 months in order to “allow for new rules and laws to be drafted” but the nation’s capital “could choose to do nothing” which would “allow provinces and medical regulatory bodies to create the ground rules for assisted death”.  This ruling is not only restricted to those who are terminal, but also to those who suffer from a “ ‘grievous and irremediable medical condition’” which means that every Canadian who has a serious disability will have access to assisted suicide.  The ruling also says that the Court does “ ‘not agree that the existential formulation of the right to life requires an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying, or that individuals cannot ‘waive’ their right to life’” and that this ruling would insist on a “ ‘duty to live’”. 

As is to be expected when it comes to a ruling of this magnitude, there has been mixed reactions by Canadians all across the country.  Although, the majority of Canadians are in favour of this ruling.

I believe that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a good one, as I believe that the people have the right to make their own decisions when it comes to their own bodies.  The only downside to this ruling is that the government needs to be careful in implementing the new policies.  It could be very easy, if the government is not careful when they implement the new laws, for people who are sick and in pain to chose to die instead of going through a long and painful treatment.


I think it is great that Canada has finally gotten the ball rolling in the conversation about medically assisted suicide. I was aware that the Supreme Court is in favour of assisted suicide, and I was extremely happy about this ruling, but I was not aware of any of the details of how the Supreme Court got to this ruling. I find that all the arguments that were used for the pros and cons of the subject very interesting and I had not particularly known about them before.
I personally think that people should have the ability to make the decision of if they want to do die. It is a great step forward for Canada in the rights of people in compromised health. But I must agree with about policies. There has to be very strict policies about implementing medically assisted suicide. I think that medical professionals and people interested in medically assisted suicide must be fully informed about all legal and medical details about what it is.

I would like to begin by saying that you have chosen a very interesting topic that I was completely unaware of before reading your post. I believe this is a very important ethical issue because almost every individual deals with suffering at least once in his or her lifetime and it has always been a difficult subject to address.

From your post, it seems that you have chosen to adopt a utilitarian point of view where the morality of an action is determined by its end result. In this case, the desired end goal or “summum bonum” is to reduce suffering amongst people who are considered to be in severe, irremediable pain. I am in total agreement with this perspective because I too had to witness one of my family members who was not given the choice of assisted-suicide, suffer from enormous amounts of pain before dying.

However, before dismissing the Supreme Court’s ruling about lifting the ban against assisted-suicide, I would like to invite you to examine the issue from a deontological point of view in order to understand the reason for controversy. A deontological perspective requires that we follow a set of universal maxims. In this case, a set of maxims could be one of the Ten Commandments, which states, “thou shall not murder”. Therefore, through a deontological point of view, we can see that assisted-suicide can be considered unethical. Furthermore, we can see why the Supreme Court’s decision has brought up much controversy.

You have brought up some very interesting points that are ripe for discussion. In fact, the topic is very relevant considering how important the court’s ruling is on the future of Canada. This makes it all the more important to consider the negative repercussions that such a ruling can have, as you have touched upon at the very end of your article. In fact, both ends of the discussion must be considered when approaching the matter from different ethical perspectives.
It seems you have taken a utilitarian perspective on the issue, interpreting euthanasia to do a greater good for a greater number of people. Perhaps it is doing less good than one may hope for it to. In fact, many people who seek to be euthanized are suffering from a depression with their condition which becomes the foundation for their irreversible decision. Access to euthanasia may in fact victimise people who act out of desperation rather than rationality. Consider an individual who is ready to take his life by jumping off a bridge. Today, society would have bystanders, and authorities intervene and do all in their power to stop such an extreme and irreversible solution to his or her issues. Why should we refrain from doing the same with suffering individuals? You might point to differing circumstances; perhaps medical or psychological. However, now consider the jumper to be diagnosed with a disease that only gives him or her a short while to live. Would it be justified if everyone were to walk away from the situation? All lives should be valued equally and I believe there is no room for any double standards when it comes to this. Canada takes a deontological stance on suicide, with laws in place making abetting suicide illegal. The proposed legislation on euthanasia risks victimising people into performing suicide out of depression and not due to their clinical conditions; that is, they may not make a decision from reason, which is essential to the deontological outlook on ethical judgement.
Discussion over the topic of euthanasia is very complex and it is so hard to condense my arguments into a short comment. However, from a utilitarian perspective – by questioning if euthanasia really does contribute to the greatest good – and from a deontological perspective, one might come to reason that euthanasia must be heavily moderated. I recognise the difference between ordinary and extraordinary means of life sustenance, and the reality that some are simply unable to express for themselves whether they wish to be euthanized or not, which are even further realms of discussion that I believe can help deconstruct the many facets of this very complex human rights issue.