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Published On: Fri, Feb 6th, 2015

Canada: Battle over ‘right to death’ and euthanasia heats up

The Canadian Supreme Court struck down total prohibitions on doctor-prescribed death Friday but said that Parliament may only allow a “stringently limited, carefully monitored system of exceptions” and affirmed that physicians cannot be forced to participate in killing someone because patients do not have a “right to death.” Canada’s existing laws will remain in place for another year.

“Suffering patients need sound medical treatment and real compassion, not encouragement to take their own lives,” said ADF Senior Counsel Brett Harvey. “Although we would have preferred for the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm Canadian laws against doctor-prescribed death just as it has done previously, the court did the right thing in highly limiting the occasions when assisted suicide can take place. Moreover, the decision significantly protects medical professionals by declaring that no one can be forced to participate in killing another human being.”

screenshot of video China health care workers

screenshot of video China health care workers

“Parliament, which has widely supported Canada’s existing laws, should ensure that Canadians are protected – especially the most vulnerable, such as those who are disabled, ill, elderly, or depressed. They are the ones who stand to suffer the most if a weak system is enacted,” Harvey added.

“In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada has expressly recognized that physicians have both conscience and religious freedom rights under the Charter that prevent them from being forced by regulators to participate in abortions or euthanasia,” said ADF-allied attorney Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., of the Canadian firm Miller Thompson LLP, which represented clients supporting Canada’s existing laws in the case, Carter v. Attorney General of Canada.

“This right extends to participation by referral, meaning doctors cannot be forced even to refer patients for such activities,” Chipeur explained. “This message should lead the Colleges of Physicians across Canada – and in Saskatchewan and Ontario, in particular – to abandon their plans to prosecute physicians who refuse to participate in abortions. The Supreme Court of Canada requires no less.”

The Supreme Court said that only those who are unable to take their own lives must be covered by the new scheme Parliament puts together because the only patients qualified are “competent adults who seek such assistance as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering.” It said that Parliament may carefully monitor all aspects of whatever activity is permitted.

“The sanctity of life is one of our most fundamental societal values,” the high court wrote in its decision, adding that physicians may not be forced to participate against their Charter-protected freedom of conscience and religion because “a physician’s decision to participate in assisted dying is a matter of conscience.”

photo Dr. Michael Rauzzino,. Screenshot/video NBC

photo Dr. Michael Rauzzino,. Screenshot/video NBC

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