REGINA – In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the country’s assisted suicide laws, making it no longer illegal for a doctor to help someone end their life.
The ruling gives governments twelve months to respond and states in its decision that “what follows is in the hands of colleges, parliament, and legislatures.”
However in Saskatchewan, lawmakers aren’t providing a clear picture about how the decision will play out.
“We’re going to look at it obviously very carefully and take it very seriously and we’ll have a more fullsome answer for all of you as we get a better answer on exactly what’s in that ruling,” said Premier Brad Wall.
A University of Regina political scientist said there are difficult decisions ahead for the Saskatchewan Party.
“They’ve got a lot of libertarians, who I imagine will be OK. It’s choice,” said Jim Farney. “And a fair number of more religious leaders… social conservative motivated people.”
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan said it’s not yet in a position to take any action. An emailed statement reads, “until the College has an opportunity to review and consider the implications of the decision it will not be in a position to decide what, if any, action to take in response to the decision.”
Some people on the front lines of palliative care support the historic ruling. “Every single Canadian has the right to make that decision for themselves,” said Dennis Coutts, executive director at the Greystone Bereavement Centre.
However, more than just having the option to die, Coutts is optimistic Friday’s decision will improve services.
“I’m hoping what it does is create an awareness around the need for palliative care, end of life services, right across the country,” said Coutts.
Advocates opposing the right to die agree more focus needs to be on providing better care for people suffering. They argue by improving services like pain management, patients will be less inclined to want to die.
“It’s an illusion that it’s a free choice,” said Amy Hasbrouck of the group Not Dead Yet Canada via Skype from Ottawa following the ruling. “The notice of making a determination that somebody is competent when they are being affected by public policy that drive them in a certain direction, I think that’s people fooling themselves.”
The SCC decision stipulated physician-assisted can only be done under certain conditions including the adult must be competent and living with enduring, intolerable suffering.