Carter Wrong: No Right to Suicide

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

On June 15, 2012, Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court issued an opinion supporting legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.[1]

The opinion is written in double-speak, meaning to say one thing and mean another, sometimes the opposite concept. Most centrally, the opinion finds a "right to die" based on the "right to life" in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[2] These are opposite concepts.[3] 

The opinion also argues that because Canadian statutory law does not prohibit suicide as a crime, that committing suicide is a right.[4]

This claim ignores other Canadian law discouraging suicide. Indeed, a suicidal person can be committed against his or her will in order to prevent a suicide.[5] With suicide actively discouraged under the law, it cannot be said that the law somehow grants a right to commit suicide. The opinion's logic is flawed.

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[1]  To view the opinion, click here.
[2]  Opinion, pages 365-8.
[3]  See e.g., the opinion at 366, paragraph 1314, which states: "Canada argues that the right to life does not include the right to choose death.  [Canada] submits that such an interpretation would directly contradict the plain and obvious meaning of a right to life and would mark a significant departure from existing Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence."
[4]  See e.g., the opinion at 10, paragraph 15: "The claim that the legislation infringes Ms. Taylor's equality rights begins with the fact that the law does not prohibit suicide. However, persons who are physically disabled such that they cannot commit suicide without help are denied that option because s. 241(b) prohibits assisted suicide."
[5]  See, for example, BC Mental Health Act, Part 3, Section 22 (allowing involuntary admissions "to prevent the person's or patient's substantial mental or physical deterioration or for the protection of the person or patient or the protection of others").