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Canada court upholds law against doctor-assisted suicide

The Court of Appeal for British Columbia [official website] on Thursday upheld [judgment] Canada's law against doctor-assisted suicide. Justice Lynn Smith for the Supreme Court of British Columbia had ruled [JURIST report] last year that the provisions of Canada's Criminal Code unjustly violate the rights to life, liberty and equality. She reasoned that physician-assisted suicide could be executed if adequate safeguards were in place. In a split 2-1 decision, the appeals court overturned the ruling of the lower court:

As the law now stands, there does not appear to be an avenue for relief from a generally sound law that has an extraordinary, even cruel, effect on a small number of individuals. Such individual relief is often referred to as a constitutional exemption. In the past that possibility existed in Canada. ... At the least, a court of law, unencumbered by previous judicial direction, accustomed to assessing issues of consent and influence, and with a perspective outside the (often overstressed) health care regime, should in our view be required to assess individual cases.
The government of Canada had announced its intention to appeal last year's ruling [JURIST report] in July 2012. The case will likely be heard next by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Opinions regarding the right to die [JURIST news archive] have been sharply divided around the world. In May the Louisiana legislature passed a bill [JURIST report] strengthening the state's ban on euthanasia. Earlier that month Georgia Governor Nathan Deal [official website] signed legislation banning assisted suicide [JURIST report] in the state. In 2011 an India high court ruled passive euthanasia was permitted [JURIST report] under certain circumstances, but rejected a petition for a mercy killing. In 2010 a German court ruled that removing a patient from life support is not a criminal offense [JURIST report] if the patient had previously given consent. In 2009 the Italian president refused to sign [JURIST report] a government decree stopping the euthanasia of comatose women because it would violate the separation of power overturning a previous court ruling.

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