Canada introduces bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide News
Canada introduces bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide

A long-awaited bill [text] legalizing physician-assisted suicide was introduced before the Parliament of Canada [official website] on Thursday and is now awaiting passage through the House of Commons and the Senate. This development [NPR report] comes over a year after the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] struck down a ban [JURIST report] on the practice, and after emotional advocacy by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [official website]. Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau [Britannica profile], died in 2000 of prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Trudeau stated his father would have liked to end his life with dignity. The bill labels the practice as “medical assistance in dying,” as opposed to suicide and primarily targets the incurably ill. It requires medical approval, mandates a 15-day waiting period and lists eligibility criteria. Among other things, the person applying for medically assisted death must be or would soon be eligible for government-funded health care, must be mentally competent adult of 18 years of age or older, must have a grievous and irremediable medical condition and must give voluntarily informed consent for medically assisted death. The Supreme Court had initially given a one-year deadline to enact the law but the previous conservative government did not make much progress. It will now go through the parliament before final enactment.

The aid-in-dying movement has garnered substantial legal debate around the world in the past few years. In the US, four states currently have legislation that allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to some patients: California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. In Montana the state’s highest court has ruled that assisted suicide is not explicitly banned [JURIST report] by state law or public policy, meaning consent could be raised as a defense in a potential prosecution of a physician. In July California lawmakers ended a previous legislative effort [JURIST report] to enact similar legislation, as the former right-to-die bill had been amended several times over the previous year. The law was hotly debated when 29-year-old Brittany Maynard [CNN backgrounder] moved from San Francisco to Oregon, which allows physician-assisted suicide, so that she could die on her own terms after being diagnosed with brain cancer. In June the European Court of Human Rights [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a French court’s decision allowing Vincent Lambert the right to die, stating it did not violate article 2 of European Convention on Human Rights. In May a Dutch court acquitted [JURIST report] a man of all criminal charges for assisting his 99-year-old mother in committing suicide. Also that month, an 84-year old attorney, businessman and political candidate filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in Tennessee, challenging a law that makes it a felony for a doctor or another person to help someone commit suicide.