The issue of whether assisted suicide should be allowed in Canada is back in the courts and in the news.
Gloria Taylor is a 63-year-old British Columbia woman who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She is challenging the laws that make it a crime, with a maximum sentence of 14 years, to assist anyone with suicide.
The BC Civil Liberties Association, on behalf of Taylor and several others, has brought a lawsuit arguing that banning assisted suicide violates ss. 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This past week, Taylor’s motion to have her case expedited was approved, which means that her case will be heard in November and following that, the law could potentially be overturned.
One of the few things I recall from Constitutional law class is the 1993 case of Sue Rodriguez. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Rodriguez’s appeal and found that there was no right to assisted suicide. Rodriguez also suffered from ALS.
While Canada’s laws on this topic may have good intentions, they do infringe the right to security of the person. Times have changed in the past 18 years- public opinion has evolved, and hopefully today we can recognize that while those with religious convictions are entitled to their beliefs, they cannot decide for everyone. It’s time for Canada to follow the lead of countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland, and recognize the right to die with dignity.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court of Canada will think so too.