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Canada court rejects right to die claim for lack of standing

The Supreme Court of British Columbia [official website] dismissed [press release] a right to die [JURIST news archive] suit by the Farewell Foundation [advocacy website] for lack of standing on Wednesday but encouraged the group to intervene in a similar suit later this year. The group reported that Judge Lynn Smith was very respectful of the questions they raised but dismissed the suit due to the organization's commitment to keeping their members anonymous. However, Smith suggested the Farewell Foundation intervene in a similar suit [press release] by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) [advocacy website], which the group is planning to do, partially because the BCCLA's suit is fighting for physician-assisted suicide, while the Farewell Foundation seeks something closer to the "Swiss model" that allows people to take their own lives without physician assistance. Both groups are challenging the constitutionality of section 241(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada [text], which criminalizes assisted suicide. The groups argue that this is contrary to sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], which guarantee the rights to liberty and equal protection, respectively. The BCCLA's suit is slated to begin arguments on November 15.

The right to die has been a highly contentious issue around the world. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of India [official website] rejected a petition for mercy killing [JURIST report] but ruled that passive euthanasia was permissible under certain circumstances. The German Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] ruled in October that removing a patient from life support is not a criminal offense [JURIST report] if the terminal individual had previously given consent. The year before, the Supreme Court of Western Australia [official website] upheld the right to die [JURIST report] in a case involving a quadriplegic who asked to be removed from food and hydration services. In July 2009, the UK Law Lords asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify [JURIST report] the UK's laws regarding those who aid patients seeking assisted suicide. Many Britons have reportedly gone to the Dignitas clinic [website, in German] in Switzerland to obtain assisted suicides. The House of Lords also that month rejected a bill [JURIST report] that would would have barred prosecuting those who go abroad to help others commit assisted suicide. In May 2009, the South Korean Supreme Court [official website, in Korean] upheld a lower court ruling allowing a brain-damaged patient the right to die. The judge held that, for future cases, doctors should make efforts to confirm patients' wishes to die with dignity and that such determinations can be deduced from an analysis of different factors.

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