British Columbia high court strikes down law forbidding assisted suicide Max Slater at 4:06 PM ET
[JURIST] The Supreme Court of British Columbia [official website] ruled [judgment] Friday that provisions of Canada's Criminal Code [text] that forbid physician-assisted suicide unjustly violate the rights to life, liberty and equality. In her ruling, Justice Lynn Smith acknowledged that physician-assisted suicide is an issue that has sharply divided both the medical community and the general public. Nevertheless, she ruled that the procedure could be safely done if adequate safeguards are in place:
Medical practitioners disagree about physician-assisted death. ... There are respected practitioners who would support legal change. ... They state that providing physician-assisted death in defined cases, with safeguards, would be consistent with their ethical views. ... The most commonly expressed reason for maintaining a distinction between currently accepted end-of-life practices and physician-assisted death is that any system of safeguards will not adequately protect the vulnerable. ... The evidence shows that risks exist, but they can be largely avoided through carefully designed, well-monitored safeguards.
It is unclear if the Canadian government plans to appeal the decision.
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