Canada Legalizes Physician-Assisted Dying


Canada today provided terminally-ill citizens with increased peace of mind and control over the dying process. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that those who are terminally ill and experiencing intolerable suffering have the right to a physician’s assistance in hastening death. The monumental ruling demonstrates Canada’s commitment, as a country with a reputation of being a just and civil society, to allowing terminally ill individuals the right to increased control in their final stages of life and strikes down an inhumane ban on assisted dying that interfered with the most fundamental of relationships between a dying patient and his or her physician.

The Canadian case, Carter v. Canada, featured several patients, but was driven by the plight of countless others. Gloria Taylor was a woman living with ALS who appealed to the Canadian court system in 2011 for the right to a dignified and humane death. The British Columbia Court of Appeals granted Taylor a personal exemption from the ban on assisted suicide, providing her with the right to an assisted death. After her death, the case continued, reaching resolution today.

According to our Executive Director, Peg Sandeen, “this groundbreaking ruling demonstrates Death with Dignity is an issue of pressing concern for the courts, for state legislatures, and for terminally ill individuals and their family members all over the world.”

Currently, 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are considering Death with Dignity legislation based on the original model, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Additionally, an assisted-dying bill is being considered in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.

Sandeen reiterated, “The rights of terminally ill individuals have been ignored for too long. The inhumane denial of autonomy and control for those who are dying must stop. The United States must look to Canada’s ruling and Oregon’s model law to provide a dignified death to all those terminally ill, mentally competent individuals seeking it.”

Image by Lone Primate

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