What the Supreme Court of Canada decision on physician-assisted dying means for physicians

“This means that at this time it remains illegal for anyone, including physicians, to counsel, aid, or abet a person to commit suicide.”

Editor’s note. The following excerpted from a statement from the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) concerning the Supreme Court’s Carter v. Canada assisted dying decision.

CMPAreIn a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously declared the criminal prohibition against physician-assisted dying unconstitutional. While the February 6, 2015, decision is important, the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) wants physicians to keep in mind several important facts.

The most important is that the Court suspended the decision for 12 months to give Parliament and the provincial legislatures time to enact legislation, and medical regulatory authorities (Colleges) and medical associations time to develop policies and guidelines. This means that at this time it remains illegal for anyone, including physicians, to counsel, aid, or abet a person to commit suicide. …

The Court expressly recognized a physician’s right to refuse to assist a patient to die based on freedom of conscience. The Court deferred to Parliament, provincial legislatures, and Colleges to establish appropriate frameworks that reconcile the Charter rights of patients and physicians.