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Assisted Suicide in Canada: The Rodriguez Case (1993)

In the early 1990s, Sue Rodriguez submitted to the courts that section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibited assisted suicide, was constitutionally invalid. (See also Assisted Suicide in Canada.) Rodriguez suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and wanted the legal right to have a physician’s help in ending her own life. On 30 September 1993, a 5–4 majority of the Supreme Court of Canada upheld section 241(b), declaring that it was constitutional and did not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nonetheless, Rodriguez committed suicide in February 1994, assisted by an anonymous doctor and in the presence of NDP MP Svend Robinson, who had championed her cause. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided unanimously to strike down the prohibition and allow medically assisted suicide, which was officially legalized with the passing of the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Act on 17 June 2016. In March 2021, new legislation was passed that expanded eligibility for MAID.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Article

Assisted Suicide in Canada

Assisted suicide is the intentional termination of one’s life, assisted by someone who provides the means or knowledge, or both. (See also Suicide.) Between 1892 and 2016, assisted suicide was illegal in Canada under section 241(b) of the Criminal Code. In 2015, after decades of various legal challenges, the Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously to allow physician-assisted suicide. In June 2016, the federal government passed the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) Act, which established the eligibility criteria and procedural safeguards for medically assisted suicide. In March 2021, new legislation was passed that expanded eligibility for MAID.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

Article

Suicide in Canada

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences. To reach the Canada Suicide Prevention Service, contact 1-833-456-4566.

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Suicide was decriminalized in Canada in 1972. Physician-assisted suicide was decriminalized in 2015. Suicide is among the leading causes of death in Canada, particularly among men. On average, approximately 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year — about 11 suicides per 100,000 people in Canada. This rate is higher for men and among Indigenous communities. Suicide is usually the result of a combination of factors; these can include addiction and mental illness (especially depression), physical deterioration, financial difficulties, marriage breakdown and lack of social and medical support.

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Quebec Superior Court Rules Parts of MAID Laws are Unconstitutional

A Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that both federal and provincial laws governing medical assistance in dying (MAID) are unconstitutional. Since the assistance is only available to people facing “reasonably foreseeable death,” the laws were deemed too restrictive. Justice Christine Baudouin ruled that the laws violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the right to equality, because “The reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement deprives both individuals and claimants of their autonomy and their choice to end their lives at the time and in the manner desired.” Both governments were given six months to revise the law.