Commentary on SCC Assisted Suicide Judgment in Carter v. Canada - Key Concerns


Toronto and Winnipeg: February 6, 2015

Commentary on SCC Assisted Suicide Judgment in Carter v. Canada –  Key Concerns

1. The judgment creates the potential for the most permissive and least restrictive criteria for assisted suicide in the world, putting persons with disabilities at serious risk.

2. CCD and CACL are disappointed that the views of people with disabilities in Canada, as shared by the leading disability advocacy groups around the world, were disregarded by the Court.

3. The Court did not impose a requirement of terminal illness, as is required in the states of Washington and Oregon.

4. The judgment permits assisted suicide on the basis of psychological suffering. This places people with serious mental and emotional disabilities at risk, as well as people who have not yet come to grips with their disability.

5. The judgment allows people to decline palliative and other care that would alleviate their suffering, and imposes an obligation on the state to provide Assisted Suicide, but not palliative care.

6. The Court has focused on striking the law using two potentially expansive criteria –in doing so,  it paid no attention to ensuring Assisted Suicide is limited to a small number.

7. The judgment makes the existence of a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” , rather than a terminal illness, one of the two primary criteria – this potentially means that all persons with a serious disability in Canada can access Assisted Suicide. This degree of permissiveness does not exist anywhere else in the world.

8. The second criteria, “intolerable suffering,”  is completely subjective and will make it difficult to review decisions of doctors like Dr. Kevorkian who felt the existence of a disability was intolerable.

9. Numbers are revealing – in Belgium, the number of Assisted Suicide deaths has increased an average of 47.77% annually since 2003, and in the Netherlands it has increased 64.13% since 1995, with no end in sight to this increase.

10. Parliament can and should act to place crucial safeguards on the Court’s judgment to limit access to assisted suicide.

11. CCD and CACL call on Parliament to show national leadership on the issues of palliative and long-term care to reduce the number of people who will choose assisted suicide out of desperation because they do not have access to support systems to ease their end of life.