The safety of Canadians of utmost concern as SCC rules on assisted suicide

This article was published by Advocate Daily on February 4, 2015.

 Hugh Scher

 Hugh Scher

In releasing its much-anticipated ruling on assisted suicide on Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to clarify its stance on protecting Canadians from the risks of serious abuse, along with answering the larger question of Parliament’s role in such debates, says Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

A hearing at the high court on Oct. 15, 2014 addressed a constitutional challenge to Canada’s assisted suicide law to determine whether it should be upheld, struck down or modified.

The Supreme Court to release assisted suicide decision on Friday.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), represented by Scher, has been granted leave to intervene in the case – Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) 2013 BCCA 435 (CanLII)

The case began with a lawsuit filed by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in 2011, seeking to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain circumstances.

The Supreme Court determined the matter in its previous 5-4 decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 SCR 519, 1993 CanLII 75 (SCC), where the court found s. 241 was not infringing on certain rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or that any such infringements were justified as there was no halfway measure that could meet Parliament’s legitimate objective to protect the vulnerable and promote life.

The coalition’s position is that the court should maintain its ruling in Rodriguez, says Scher.

“The Supreme Court has been asked to delve into a matter that is clearly the job of Parliament to do,” Scher tells AdvocateDaily.com. “A decision to strike down the assisted suicide law would strike a serious blow to Parliamentary sovereignty and to basic principles of democracy by effectively overriding the will of Parliament as it has been expressed consistently over the past 30 years with respect to the issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

A decision to reverse the Supreme Court's earlier finding in Rodriguez – that legal prohibitions against assisted suicide are necessary to protect society’s most vulnerable and to prevent against abuse – would fly in the face of the court's own previous conclusion, says Scher, who will share his insights on the issue at an upcoming Canadian Bar Association event.

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