Decriminalizing Assisted Death: Is It A Good Or A Bad Decision?

by jrivard on February 14, 2015 - 2:04pm

On last February 6th, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the laws against assisted dying, making it possible for "competent adults afflicted with a grievous and irremediable medical condition" (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board) to receive medical aid to die. These people enduring intolerable suffering will soon be able to request assisted death if they meet a narrow set of circumstances. The parliament has one year to submit a precise legislative framework (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board). The newspaper article "Editorial: The hard work now ahead on assisted dying" published in the Montreal Gazette indicates that assisted dying in Belgium is a bad example that Canada should not follow to avoid slippery slopes. It also mentions that polls showed that more than 80% of the Canadian population supports this decision (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board). This means that 20% of the population is disagreeing. In such an ethical dilemma, who knows best what is the right thing to do?


It would be correct to assume that everyone should have equal rights to autonomy as well as to live and die without suffering. Yet, forcing someone to live in pain is absolutely unfair and comparable to torture. Given this, it becomes clear that the Supreme Court of Canada took the right decision in striking down the laws prohibiting assisted dying. Indeed, some people have no chance of recovery and are doomed to suffer for the rest of their lives. This should not be called a "life". Moreover, it should be noted that suicide is legal in Canada, while assisted dying was not. This was not fair: everyone's rights were not equally respected. In effect, this means that people who are physically able to commit suicide could, but that physically incapable individuals were not allowed to (Barbuzzi 17). Yet, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom clearly states that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability" (Gov. of Canada sec. 15). Therefore, prohibiting assisted suicide is discrimination based on people's physical disability. Furthermore, while the application of assisted death policies in Belgium might scare some, the Netherlands stand for a much better example that could help prevent slippery slopes. The Termination of Life on Request And Assisted Suicide Act has "concrete outlines in line with the basic rights of citizens" (Barbuzzi 18), and it works well. Netherlands is a great example of “balance between protection and freedom” (Barbuzzi 19).


What about the 20% of the population disagreeing with these facts? Some might argue that "all life is sacred" and that no one has the right to end a life (Barbuzzi 19). However, a life of suffering and degeneration is not a proper life. Forcing someone to live this way is torture. The quality of life must be taken into account and analyzed in order to determine whether assisted suicide is the right option or not. Some might also mention the risk of slippery slopes like we saw in Belgium, where assisted death is now permitted for children (Montreal Gazette Editorial Board) . Yet, these issues can be avoided by following the Netherlands model.




Work cited


Barbuzzi, Miranda. “Who Owns the Right to Die ?.” Penn Bioethics Journal. 10.1 (2014) : 16-20. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.


Government of Canada. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ottawa: Government of Canada, n.d. Web. 10 Feb 1015. < >


Montreal Gazette Editorial Board. “Editorial :The hard work now ahead on assisted dying.” Montreal Gazette. Postmedia Network Inc., 6 Feb. 2015 . Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <




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