Supreme Court Of Canada To Rule On Prohibition Of Assisted SuicideAssisted suicide is a criminal offence in Canada pursuant to section 241 of the Criminal Code. In Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2013 BCCA, 435, the Plaintiffs argued before the British Columbia Court of Appeal that section 241 of the Criminal Code is unconstitutional, and is therefore of no force or effect. The basis for the Plaintiff’s argument was that the prohibition impairs an individual’s right to life, liberty and security of person, and further impairs an individual’s right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The discrimination comes from the fact that able-bodied individuals have no legal barrier to their access to suicide, while physically-disabled individuals are prohibited from such access. The aforementioned rights are subsumed within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal found that they were bound by a previous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Rodriguez v British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 SCR 519, where it was found that the prohibition on assisted suicide did not infringe upon people’s Charter rights. It was further held in Rodriguez v British Columbia (Attorney General) that even if the ban did impair an individual’s right to be protected against discrimination, such an impairment would be a reasonable limit that is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The Plaintiffs in Carter v Canada (Attorney General) appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, who heard the case in October of last year. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected to be released soon, and could have profound impacts on all Canadians.