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Legal expert suggests that the Supreme Court of Canada will uphold Canada’s euthanasia and assisted suicide laws

by | Sep 4, 2012

By Alex Schadenberg, executive director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Editor’s note. Last June Justice Lynn Smith of the British Columbia Supreme Court granted Gloria Taylor a constitutional exemption to die by euthanasia and assisted suicide. On August 3, Justice Prowse of the British Columbia Court of Appeal heard a challenge to the decision and a week later upheld Justice Smith. The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to hear the case next year. The following appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog.

Philip Slayton

Philip Slayton, the author of the book: “Mighty Judgement, How the Supreme Court of Canada Runs your life,” suggests that the Supreme Court of Canada will likely uphold the laws in Canada that prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Slayton, who wrote an article that was published in the September 2012 edition of the Canadian Lawyer asked the question: “Assisted Suicide – the issue that rips everyone’s heart out – is headed back to the Supreme Court of Canada. What will the court do this time?” [www.canadianlawyermag.com/4309/times-have-changed.html]

Slayton predicts that the Supreme Court will hear the Carter case in July 2013. …

Slayton gives a summary of the majority decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1993 Rodriguez case in. He points out that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [one of the four dissenters] is the only justice who remains on the bench from that case, and that he expects that she will support legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Slayton states that in the majority opinion in Rodriguez, Justice John Sopinka held that society “needs to prevent suicide from being encouraged and assisted in an abusive situation.”

Slayton then points out that by the time the Supreme Court of Canada hears the Carter case, 7 of the 9 Justices will have been appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Slayton suggests that it is unlikely that the Supreme Court, which is becoming  more Conservative (in his assessment), will overrule the Rodriguez decision.

Slayton then points out that Justice Smith, in the Carter decision, wrote a “ponderous” decision that “and has everything in it, including the kitchen sink.” He believes that Justice Smith seems to be saying “that times have changed” and based her decision on her reading of the “zeitgeist.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition rejects the idea that times have changed, and we hope that the Supreme Court will follow the lead of the Court in the UK who decided that it is the role of parliament to decide if laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide should change.

Nonetheless, Slayton’s assessment of the Carter decision is one of many that I have read.

Categories: Assisted Suicide