Ban against assisted suicide is the norm and should remain the norm in Canada


By Hugh Scher, legal counsel, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Editor’s note: This is adapted from an article first published in the Advocate Daily on October 16, referring to a television appearance Mr. Scher made Wednesday after the Supreme Court of Canada heard Carter v. Canada. He is a former chairperson of the human rights committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

The priorities of disabled Canadians include access to quality living conditions, education, health care and employment – not to be granted the right to assisted suicide, Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Power & Politics program.

Scher appeared at the high court hearing on behalf of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

“Nobody should be forced to suffer to death or kill themselves, but those should not be the policy choices Canadians are left with,” he said on the CBC program.

“There isn’t one Supreme Court across the world that recognizes a constitutional right to die. The absolute ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia remains the norm in most of the world, with the exception of seven small jurisdictions.”

The Carter case began with a lawsuit filed by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in 2011. The objective was to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain circumstances.

The Supreme Court of Canada determined the matter in its previous decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia. The court found that S. 241 [the Criminal Code’s prohibition of assisted suicide] was not infringing on certain rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or that any such infringements were justified as there was no halfway measure that could meet Parliament’s legitimate objective to protect the vulnerable and promote life.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s position is that the court should maintain its ruling in Rodriguez, said Scher.

“There’s a crying demand by some to promote this issue,” he said on CBC. “Having been unsuccessful in persuading Parliament through the course of 10 different legislative initiatives and the last one being rejected by an overwhelming 3-to-1 margin across party lines in Parliament, those who promote the right to die have now taken to the courts as a means of trying to strategically have the court try to reconsider the matter.”