The judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in Carter is not very clear as to whether it intended to decriminalize only a physician’s assistanceg to a person to commit suicide or whether it also intended to decriminalize euthanasia performed by a physician. In our opinion, the judgment decriminalizes only the assistance provided by a physician to a person to commit suicide, but not causing the death of a person. The decision is available on the Supreme Court website (https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/14637/index.do).
Paragraph 147 of the judgment reads as follows:
"Section 241 (b) and s. 14 of the Criminal Code unjustifiably infringe s.7 of the Charter and are of no force or effect to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted death for a competent adult person who (1) clearly consents to the termination of life and (2) has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition."
Note that, in the French version of the judgment delivered on the morning of February 6, the phrase "l'aide d'un médecin pour mourir" actually read "l'aide médicale à mourir" and that this correction was made to paragraphs 4, 127 and 147 of the decision that contain the true ratio decidendi of the judgment!
In the original English version of the judgment, the SCC uses the term "physician-assisted death" in paragraphs 127 and 147. However, the use of "a physician's assistance in terminating life" in paragraph 126, accompanied by a reference to s. 241(b) and s. 14 as those that prohibit such assistance, and the reference in paragraph 120 to euthanasia and murderas being possible consequences of the legalization of assistance in dying confirm that the Court intended to decriminalize only a physician’s assistance to a person to commit suicide but not causing the death of a person referred to in s. 222, even if performed by a physician.
The same reasoning applies to the French versionof the judgment, especially since at paragraphs 127 and 147, the SCC does not use the term "aide médicale à mourir" but rather "aide d'un médecin pour mourir " and paragraphs 5, 6, 10, 22, 43, 45, 49, 84, 131 as well as Title IX of the decision confirm our interpretation.
In our opinion, if the Court had also intended to legalize euthanasia, it would have rendered a clearer decision than it did.Share