Legalizing Assisted Suicide

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Date Submitted: 09/26/2011 04:18 PM

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Legalizing Assisted Suicide in BC

Sheryl Yaremco

HLTH 3611 Assignment 4

Scholarly Paper on Ethics

V. Jacklin

Eighteen years ago, ALS patient Sue Rodrigues lost her challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada over the issue of whether it is government or the individual who has the right to control the circumstances of dying. (1) Since that time, society’s attitudes have shifted, informed by the escalating cost of healthcare in Canada, and the initiative by several jurisdictions around the globe who have legalized the “ right to die” for terminal, but mentally competent citizens . The “slippery slope” argument by ethicists such as Margaret Somerville, (2) holds that any latitude or change to Section 241b of the Criminal Code of Canada will lead to a gradual unstoppable expansion of euthanasia. The central argument blocking more progressive laws on the matter, has been that altering prohibitions against assisted suicide will lead to people being legally dispatched for convenience sake. Public opinion no longer supports this view (3) and the Supreme Court will soon hear a challenge to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from the Farewell Foundation and the BC Civil Liberties Association (4) asserting that prohibition of the right to assisted suicide is unconstitutional.

Societal attitudes have changed dramatically in the last two decades since the Rodrigues challenge and there is a large body of data existing now that was unavailable to the Supreme Court in 1993. Today there are three American states: Oregon in 1999, (5) Washington in 2008 and recently Montana, that have sanctioned assisted suicide. Holland, Switzerland , Belgium, Scandinavia, Luxemburg, Estonia, and Uruguay are all countries where both euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalized in the past decade . Last year, Canada’s Parliament considered a private members bill to legalize...