In 1993, in a case involving Sue Rodriguez, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision banning doctor-assisted suicide. Last year, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the law must allow doctor-assisted suicide in cases where patients are diagnosed with a serious illness and are experiencing intolerable physical or psychological suffering with no chance of improvement. The BCSC granted the plaintiff immediate exception from the law, and thus made Gloria Taylor the only person in Canada who could legally seek a doctor-assisted suicide.
The BCSC also ordered the federal and provincial governments to pay roughly $1 million in legal costs to the plaintiff. This year, the federal and provincial governments are appealing to the British Columbia Court of Appeal. This case will, most probably, go to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the SCC will have to face the same question they dealt with in 1993.
The plaintiffs argue that society has changed since 1993, and that Canadian law should be updated to allow people who are suffering and fear that they will not be able to take control of their lives in the future to seek doctor-assisted suicide legally. They contend that such action is now legal in Oregon and the Netherlands, and Canada should look to these places as models for how best to regulate physician-assisted suicide.
The governments argue that any form of assisted suicide would devalue life and that no amount of regulation can protect vulnerable people from being forced into accepting doctor-assisted suicide.
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