CCLA Welcomes Supreme Court Decision on Assisted Dying

February 6, 2015

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) welcomes today’s decision from the Supreme Court of Canada striking down the assisted suicide provisions of the Criminal Code.  CCLA intervened in the case to argue that an absolute prohibition on assisted suicide restricts personal autonomy in a way that unreasonably limits the rights to life, liberty and security of the person.  Control of bodily integrity is a crucial aspect of the rights to life, liberty and security of the person; the current Criminal Code provisions violate these rights.  Prohibiting any and all forms of assistance in dying overrides the thoughtful and informed choices of terminally ill, suffering individuals and denies them the chance to preserve dignity and control over the final days of their lives.

“Today’s decision marks an important first step for Canada in granting individuals autonomy over their end of life choices,” said Sukanya Pillay, General Counsel & Executive Director of the CCLA.  “Governments and civil society will have to work together to ensure regulations effectively protect true end of life choices and vulnerable persons.”

The Supreme Court found that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying deprives competent adults of help in circumstances where they clearly consent to death and where they have a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes intolerable and enduring suffering.  This amounts to a violation of the constitutionally protected right to life, liberty and security of the person, and is not reasonable or justified.  The Court noted that a number of jurisdictions now permit some form of physician-assisted death and that the evidence supports the view that safeguards can be put in place to protect vulnerable individuals.

The decision marks a fundamental shift for Canada and CCLA welcomes the opportunity to engage with Canadians about how the law should deal with physician-assisted death in a way that upholds autonomy while protecting individuals from abuse.

CCLA is grateful to Chris Bredt, Margot Finley and Ewa Krajewska of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP for their excellent representation in this case.

Read CCLA’s factum in the case here.

Read the Supreme Court decision here.