Thursday, May 17, 2007

Assisted Suicide Debate Back in the News

The case of a Quebec man accused of helping his very sick uncle hang himself may reignite the debate in Canada over the law on assisted suicide.

The nephew is being charged under s. 241 of the Criminal Code:

"Every one who

(a) counsels a person to commit suicide, or

(b) aids or abets a person to commit suicide,

whether suicide ensues or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years".

In 1993, the "right-to-die" debate reached the Supreme Court of Canada in the Sue Rodriguez case. Rodriguez, who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a terminal condition, took her case all the way to Canada's highest court to have assisted suicide legalized. She lost her appeal. Rodriguez succumbed to her illness a little while later.

The debate over the issue has been boiling below the surface since then. As recently as 2005, an opposition MP introduced a private member's bill on the subject but it died on the order paper when the previous Liberal minority government fell.

For background:

  • The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament last year updated its Current Issue Review 91-9E Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide in Canada originally published in 1992.
  • In 1995, the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, published its final report, Of Life and Death. The report has sections on terminology, palliative care, pain control and sedation practices, withdrawal/withholding of life-saving treatment, assited suicide and euthanasia.
  • The Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax provides access to material on a number of end of life topics in its Reading Room. The Withholding & Withdrawal section of the Electronic Library / Bibliography lists material on assisted suicide.
  • Professor Valerie J. Vollmar of Willamette University College of Law has created the Physician-Assisted Suicide website. Three reports are provided every year, dealing with subject-matters such as litigation and legislation within the US; medical developments; and events taking place in other parts of the world.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:18 pm

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