Assisted Suicide

Have You Set Out Your Wishes In Your Personal Directive?

The Criminal Code provision prohibiting assisted suicide has been declared invalid as against a physician who assists in ending the life for a competent adult person who

1) clearly consents to the termination of life; and
2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.

In its decision on February 6, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada suspended its own decision for a period of 12 months to allow governments to enact alternate legislation, in keeping with Section 7 of the Charter of Rights. At the request of the Federal Government, the Supreme Court of Canada extended the period of suspension by four months, to June 6, 2015, with the proviso that the suspension of the decision could be lifted upon application of an individual during the extension period.

The Province of Quebec has enacted legislation accordingly and various provinces and the Federal Government are considering such legislation, but at this time, it is not known what such legislation will provide.

One important facet of the Supreme Court of Canada decision and any applicable legislation which may be passed is that individuals will have a choice. As a consequence, all individuals who have a Personal Directive should, as soon as possible, amend their Personal Directive in order to

• specify whether or not they wish to have physician assisted suicide considered as an option with respect to their own life; and
• specify the extent of authority they wish to give to their Agent under the Personal Directive.

It is strongly recommended that everyone who has a Personal Directive sign an amendment to indicate their wishes in this respect. Similarly, persons who do not have a Personal Directive may wish to consider signing a Personal Directive clearly setting out that they do not want their life prematurely terminated by physician assisted suicide.

Larry P. Carr, Q.C.

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