POLI 309.docx

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Political Science
POLI 309
Catherine Ortner

Euthanasia often referred to as assisted suicide is illegal in Canada The law surrounding euthanasia is complex controversial and morally questionableit is for these reasons among others that the topic of euthanasia has been vastly debated by scholars religious communities and even Supreme Court judgesThis paper will rely heavily on the Supreme Court case of Rodriguez v British Columbia Attorney Generalwhich will hereinafter be referred to as Rodriguez v BCto answer pragmatic questions about how Canadian courts approach the issue of euthanasia This caseoriginally heard at the Supreme Court of British Columbiaarose when plaintiff Sue Rodriguez a middleaged woman diagnosed with rapidly deteriorating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ALS sought the right to have a physician set up technological means by which she might at the 1time of her choosing end her life While assisted suicide is prohibited by the Criminal Code of Canada Rodriguezs claim rested upon the argument that this prohibition violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Upon losing her case Rodriguez filed an appeal at the British Columbia Court of Appeal where the original verdict was upheld Appealing once more to the Supreme Court of Canada Rodriguez lost in a 54 judgmentWhile this paper will spend much time outlining arguments both for and against euthanasia its essential argument is not a question of whether or not assisted suicide should remain an offense in Canadian criminal law Rather the purpose of this paper will be to illustrate the ways in which the Rodriguez case was supposed to solve the issue of euthanasia but ended up exposing a whole other problem the lack of judicial consensus and extremely discrepant interpretations of the Charter By outlining the relevant sections of the Charter and examining the judges arguments in Rodriguez v BC this paper will assert that virtually all claims against euthanasia can be counterargued but that the most important thing to take away from the Rodriguez case is the problematic nature of the discrepant judgments In 1 Rodriguez v British Columbia Attorney General 1993 SCC 3 1993 3 SCR 519 pg 5201explaining this problem this paper will also assert that Rodriguez v BC is representative of what Conor Gearty calls the crisis of legalismIt must first be noted that there is a narrow but distinct difference between the terms euthanasia and assisted suicide The process of euthanasia consists of a lethal medication 2being administered by a registered physician One may argue that euthanasia is a type of mercy killing in which a doctor decides to end a patients life to relieve the physical pains of a 3person suffering from an incurable disease and whose death is therefore inevitable Philosopher and legal scholar Ronald Dworkin has referred to euthanasia as deliberately killing 4a person out of kindness Assisted suicide on the other hand allows a patient to administer 5the physicianrecommended lethal medication themselves at a time of their choosing While it is important to note the slight distinction between euthanasia and assisted suicide judicial interpretations of the Criminal Code seem to render both processes illegal in Canada thus for the purposes of this paper the terms will be used interchangeably According to section 241b of the Criminal Code of Canada anyone who aids or abets 6a person to commit suicide is guilty of an indictable offense Therefore section 241b of the Code renders both euthanasia and assisted suicide illegal in Canada In Rodriguez v BC Rodriguez argued that this Criminal Code provision violates three sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sections 7 12 and 151 2 Amelia Mihaela Euthanasia pg 4743 Mihaela pg 4744 Ronald Dworkin Lifes Dominion An Argument About Abortion Euthanasia and Individual Freedom pg 35 Mihaela pg 4746 Criminal Code RSC 1985 c C46 241b2
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