Euthanasia, or assisted suicide, stands as one of the most controversial debates inCanadian Law. Many argue that the act itself is an unjust and immoral means of relief and thatthe laws placed by the Canadian government fail to sufficiently acknowledge the issue at large.
However, one can palpably argue that the current laws placed by the Canadian governmentethically considers the safety and rights of both the patients and physicians. Canadian regulationsregarding euthanasia, specifically the Canadian Criminal Code and the Hypocrite Oath, as wellas many others, have been revised to suitably absolve patients and medical practitioners from theillegality of assisted suicide. Although there has been a recent uprising with regards to controversial opinions abouteuthanasia, the issue has been under strict scrutiny for decades. Prior to the 20th century, suicideof any kind was seen as a criminal offense. However, this changed with the decriminalization ofsuicide in 1972 (Kellner 1). Following the court’s decision to declare personal suicide lawful,many were quick to argue that assisted suicide should also be decriminalized. Sue Rodriguez wasthe first person to advocate for the right to be euthanized against the court of Canada.
She wasthe first Canadian to shine a spotlight on the debate of euthanasia after being diagnosed withamyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, in 1991 (Fenton 1). Miss Rodriquez embarkedin a legal battle against the Supreme Court of Canada to advocate for the right to be euthanized Vultao 2on the grounds that section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibited assisted suicide,violated sections 7, 12, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Beaudoin 1).While the Supreme Courts ultimately denied Sue’s application, reasoning that the Criminal Codedid not violate the Charter (Bereza 719), the case sparked a significant alteration in Canadiansociety, the most compelling being the debate of Bill C-385. Since late 1900’s, euthanasia and medically assisted suicide has been a widelycontroversial and advocated for issue. From its initial legality battle with Sue Rodriguez in 1991,assisted suicide in Canada has become one of the largest and widely talked about topics.
Nearlyfour decades later, in 2016, euthanasia had officially been legalized. On June 17, 2016, theParliament of Canada received the Royal Assent for Bill C-14, transforming assisted suicide intoan action defined as ‘lawful’ in the Criminal Code (Wilson-Raybould 1). Despite the passing ofBill C-14, the members of Parliament included numerous safeguards and restrictions to the law,stating that the assisted act was only to be considered legal when all of the required steps weremet. The most significant restriction of Bill C-14 was that, in order for the patient to be lawfullyeuthanized, they must “have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability,” their healthmust be in an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capability,” and their death must be”reasonably foreseeable” (Global News 1). In addition to the safeguards set into place, certainprocedures and limitations were outlined in the Bill, such as the requirement for a physiologicalevaluation, a necessary written consent form, and a waiting period in which the patient canwithdraw their request at any time. Many say that the safeguards are too lenient and forbearing,while others claim they are too restrictive. Nonetheless, patients nation-wide are pleased with thenewly declared right to ‘die with dignity’.
Vultao 3As a result of Bill C-14 becoming legislation, revisions have been made to pre-existinglaws in the Canadian Government to excuse the actions of assisted suicide. Before thelegalization of euthanasia in Canada assisted suicide was outlined in the Criminal Code ofCanada as a criminal offense. Particularly with regards to section 14 of the Criminal Code ofCanada.
Section 14 previously stated, “No person is entitled to consent to have death inflicted onthem, and such consent does not affect the criminal responsibility of any person who inflictsdeath on the person who gave consent.” However, this section was amended to include”exemption for medical assistance in dying” after section 226 (Statutes of Canada 3). In addition,section 227 of the Criminal Code now states, “No medical practitioner or nurse practitionercommits culpable homicide if they provide a person with medical assistance in dying inaccordance with section 241.
2″ (Statues of Canada 4). Numerous additional revisions have beenmade in order to exempt medical practitioners who are assisting suicide lawfully andrestrictively. These alterations have occurred to act in the patient’s and medical practitioner’s bestinterests and to guarantee safety and righteousness with regards to euthanasia.
A crucial factor in becoming a medical practitioner, of any kind, is too ensure thatprocedures and substances will be done in the patients best interests. When pursuing a career inthe medical field, one must swear to and abide by the Hippocratic Oath. This oath requires amedical practitioner to uphold ethical standards within the profession, or are otherwise heldaccountable for their unlawful actions. The oath serves to ensure the safety of patients, and thetrue intention of practitioners. However, with the legalization of euthanasia, the oath has beenamended to absolve the actions that pertain to assisted suicide, as long as the procedure is doneethically and legally. A segment of the Hippocratic Oath demands practitioners to vow not administer a lethal narcotic to anyone, even if the patient requests it, nor are they to advise such aplan (ProCon 1).
However, following the legalization of euthanasia and the revision of theCriminal Code, medical practitioners of Canada came to the conclusion to amend sections of theoath to absolve physicians of their responsibility to preserve life in the cases of assisted suicide.While few doctors fail to abide by the revised conditions of the oath, many medical professionalshave sworn upon the amended Hippocratic oath, to protect their profession and honor patientslegal right to ‘die with dignity.’Medically assisted suicide has been a controversial issue since the 20th century. Whilemany argue that the act is unjust and immoral, as of 2016, the government of Canada haseuthanasia legal on the grounds that patients have the right to die with dignity and on their ownterms. Along with the passing of this legislation, the Canadian Government has also does anaccession job in ensuring that the laws and regulations adequately represent this social issue asbest as possible. To conclude, the current laws placed to absolve and protect physicians andpatients are ultimately just, and the government handled the issue effectively.