In a landmark decision, the country’s top court unanimously ruled Friday that Canadians have the right to die.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the current legislation banning medically-assisted death, directing Parliament to give more control to patients over how they end their own lives.
Specifically, the Court found that the current law deprived Canadians of their right to life, liberty and security.
It’s welcome news for Parksville resident Bill Martin, a longtime advocate for the right to die.
“I’m pleased,” he told The NEWS Friday morning after the decision was announced.
“I’m quite happy with it (the Supreme Court ruling) and I’m sure, if need be, sometime in the future I might be using some of these services — you never know.”
Martin, 86, suffers from spinal degeneration after a long career spent as a heavy duty mechanic.
He told The NEWS last year he’s been fighting for the right to medically-assisted death for more than 50 years, deeming Canada’s ban on it “archaic.”
Martin said he’s “in the majority” supporting the right to die, citing a recent Death with Dignity poll that suggests 84 per cent of Canadians support the idea of medically-assisted death.
“Justice was served today, absolutely,” he said.
The Supreme Court judge found the prohibition against physician assisted death violates the rights of “competent adults who are suffering intolerably as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition.”
It concluded the ban “infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
The Supreme Court suspended its ruling for one year, giving the federal and provincial governments and regulatory medical bodies time to draft new legislation around medically-assisted death.
Late last year, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and two B.C. families made their death-with-dignity case. Upon hearing the news, the organization issued a release calling the outcome “a tremendous victory” for the protection of human rights.
“This means that seriously and incurably ill Canadians who are suffering unbearably will have the choice to seek the assistance of a doctor to have a compassionate and peaceful death,” stated the BCCLA release. “Physician-assisted dying will now be recognized for what it is — a medical service.”
However, Conservative MP James Lunney, a staunch supporter of his government’s ban on assisted suicide, wasn’t happy with the Court’s ruling.
“For my part, I believe it is a dark day for Canada and for the Court,” he said in a news release issued shortly after the decision was made.
Admitting it’s an “emotional and divisive issue,” Lunney said the government will “carefully review the ruling and consult widely before responding to the ruling.”
In 2010, Lunney voted alongside the majority of parliamentarians opposing change to the present laws.
“My own position is informed by a lifetime of study of the wonders of the human body, its function and a career helping people overcome their challenges … My role and raison d’être has always been to help people live well until they die.”