International law: Canadian court says assisted suicide ban is unconstitutional

College students can find good research paper topics for their international law class from the recent decision by Canada’s Supreme Court declaring the country’s ban on physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill as unconstitutional.

Discuss assisted suicide in international law for your next research paper. (Credit: Tipping the scales)

Discuss assisted suicide in international law for your next research paper. (Credit: Tipping the scales)

You can write term paper topics on recent Supreme Court decisions, the pro and con debate about the right-to-die, the medical establishment’s views on doctor assisted suicide and need for better palliative care, and Quebec’s new end-of-life law.

On February 6, 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that “The prohibition on physician assisted dying infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The court ruled that the federal government has a year to review its right-to-die legislation.

The debate over assisted suicide

Another idea for a term paper topic is to present both sides of the argument, for and against. In an opinion piece for the Prince George Citizen in British Columbia published June 14, 2013, Neil Godbout explained in “Editorial Exchange: End of Pain”: “The legal and political dispute shouldn’t overshadow the personal issues. Whether it’s assisted suicide or taking pot to ease the pain, these are private matters between an individual and their physician. …For the terminally ill, assisted suicide is simply the last and best tool to ease suffering… people are right to demand the right to make a personal choice about how to address that pain, even if it’s death itself.”

Conservatives angry over decision

On the side against assisted suicide, social conservatives in Canada believe the Supreme Court made the wrong decision. A prominent social conservative in Canada, Stockwell Day, who is a former Conservative cabinet minister and one-time leader of the Canadian Alliance, said the court’s decision was inappropriate. In the article “Assisted-suicide ruling part of ‘activist’ Supreme Court’s stance against social conservative values: Stockwell Day” by Jen Gerson in the National Post February 8, 2015, Day said: “This is a court that is not shy at all about declaring themselves to be activist. By forcing Parliament, they’re holding the hand of the parliamentarian and guiding the pen. … I think that if you want to write laws, you should run for office. If you want to rule on existing laws, aspire to the bench.”

Canada improves palliative care

For your research paper, you can also write about the medical establishment’s views on assisted suicide and need for better palliative care. After the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Canadian Medical Association said that it will continue to promote access to high-quality palliative care.

In addition, Dr. James Downar, co-chair of the Physicians Advisory Council for Dying with Dignity, said that the Supreme Court’s decision is about choice and not “promoting assisted death.” In the article “Assisted suicide: Physicians want more palliative care as well” by June Chua, posted on CBC News February 7, 2015, Downar stressed that the majority of people who seek a physician-assisted death are already in palliative care, where the goal is to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life without necessarily providing a cure. “In countries such as England or the Netherlands where assisted death is legal, palliative care is the best,” he noted.

Quebec passes end-of-life care law

In June 2014, Quebec passed its own Act Respecting End-of-Life Care that provides palliative care that is respectful of the patient’s dignity and their autonomy and provides quality care that is appropriate to their needs, including prevention and relief of suffering. The new law incorporates medically assisted death into provincial health-care legislation. It also allows people with a terminal illness that is causing unbearable suffering to ask a physician to administer a lethal dose of medication.

Check out Questia’s library on information about Assisted Suicide and International Law. 

Where do you stand on the debate over legalized assisted suicide?

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