Supreme Court makes assisted suicide decision

by Nicolas Heffernan06 Feb 2015
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that Canadian adults who are mentally capable and are suffering permanently and intolerably have the right to a doctor’s help in dying.

The ruling is suspended for a year to give the Canadian government, the provinces and the medical regulatory bodies the opportunity to draft new polciies and laws around assisted dying. The court said doctors have the ability to address whether an individual is capable of consent. The intolerable suffering can be physical or psychological.

With health care costs continuing to rise in Canada, palliative care costs will soon skyrocket as baby boomers begin to enter the 70 plus age bracket.

“Our (health care) system currently consumes in excess of 10 per cent of GDP,” Jan K. Grude, the CEO of Pacific Blue Cross, told Life Health Professional online. “In British Columbia for example, it consumes 42 cents of in-province generated tax dollar. And it keeps on going up. It is not sustainable.”

The highest court in the land, ruled on a case revolving around two B.C. women, both now dead, who wished to end their “grievous and irremediable” illnesses with medical help.

Kay Carter, then 89, travelled to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is allowed. Gloria Taylor, who had a neurodegenerative disease, eventually died of an infection.

Taylor had won a constitutional exemption at a lower court for a medically assisted death in 2012, but that decision was overturned in subsequent appeals. Last January, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to settle the matter — effectively readjudicating its 1993 judgment in the case of Sue Rodriguez.

“There is an enormous volume of people that is aging, those born in 1946 and onwards, that are making their way through the system,” says Grude. “Fifty per cent of all health care dollars are consumed after the age of 65. And it may come to a point where it is too late. The financial damage will be so severe it will be hard to dig ourselves out of it. We think we have problems now, Baby boomer Number 1 came through, turned 65 two years ago – what about the balloon that is in behind?”


  • by Freeda 2015-02-06 10:37:07 AM

    Every one of these doctor assisted suicides MUST only be done after the person wanting the "doctor assisted suicide" go to court and apply for it. There need to be a judgement on a case by case basis.

    I thank the Supreme Court for making this decision, it is long overdue. Now lets iron out the wrinkles, before moving forward. Case by case.

  • by Lynn Whetham 2015-02-06 10:38:59 AM

    This article makes it sound like the decision has been and should be made in consideration of the cost of keeping people alive. The issue is that a person should have the right to control what happens to them and prolonging pain is not compassionate. This is a decision that should be based on compassion. I agree with the decision however if we are making our choices based on the financial considerations we really are opening things up to decisions being made for all the wrong reasons.

  • by "Grateful" John 2015-02-06 10:46:25 AM

    Finally! We live in a society where very few of us take full and personal responsibility for our own actions. And in some cases...even where we want to take responsibility the government will not allow us to. This is one area where they needed to step back and allow us to make the choice. It was a long time coming. I am relieved that it is here. I am living a healthy and wonderful life. I hope I do for many more years. But whenever or however my life comes to an end...I don't want to spend the last year of it suffering...with no solution or change in site...other than a slow and painful death. We deserve better than that. We deserve choice.