Editorial – March 2015
In a unanimous ruling on February 6th 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada made a ground-breaking decision regarding euthanasia in Canada. The court amended a law that previously made it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives so that doctors will be allowed to help a patient in specific situations, if they so choose. Voluntary euthanasia will only be legal for a “competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition… that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable…” (http://eol.law.dal.ca). The provincial and federal governments have been given 12 months to write new legislation in response to the court’s ruling. Therefore until then, the ban still stands.
One concern of those who oppose this ruling is that the availability of euthanasia will pressure people into taking the option, or that people may be subjected to euthanasia without consent. The Supreme Court, however, found that there is no evidence that the elderly or people with disabilities are vulnerable to accessing doctor-assisted dying because doctors are capable of assessing whether or not a patient is “competent” to consent.
Previously, there was also the concern that doctors would be forced to perform euthanasia; however the Supreme Court ruled that doctors will not be compelled to end patients’ lives. The court left the decision up to the professional colleges that regulate medicine.
That is not to say that there are no more questions left regarding euthanasia. It is still uncertain whether or not patients suffering from debilitating mental illness will be eligible for the procedure. There are also important caveats that must be established in order to prevent abuse.
We at the Panther Press are in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Your editorial team believes that the previous ban is another instance of governments choosing how individuals are to govern their own bodies, the right of a woman to choose abortion being another such example. Obviously this case of doctor-assisted suicide does not have nearly as many internalized biases as the abortion debate, however they are quite similar. The Panther Press believes that the right to agency is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of our modern society, and laws prohibiting individuals to act on that agency are as wrong as telling people who they can or cannot love or that they do not deserve the same rights because of skin colour or gender.