Professor pushes to decriminalize assisted suicide

“Issues only become more complex and contentious when confronting euthanasia and assisted suicide,” says Dr. Schuklenk, a professor in the Department of Philosophy. “We carefully considered Canadian values, international experience in permissive regimes and legal and ethical aspects of these practices and came to the unanimous conclusion that Canada should have a permissive yet carefully regulated and monitored system with respect to assisted death.”

The report claims that assisted suicide should be legally permitted for competent individuals who make a free and informed decision. It was determined most Canadians support the decriminalization of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. Both remain illegal in Canada. The panel is hoping the report triggers a national conversation on end of life issues and preparing for dying.

It was also noted in the report that quality palliative care is unavailable to many Canadians and that the scope of palliative care needs to continue to expand beyond cancer. There is also confusion around care for the dying, apart from euthanasia and assisted suicide including palliative sedation and decisions to withhold or withdraw potentially life-sustaining treatments against the wishes of their families.

The panel discussed the arguments against assisted suicide but confirmed the evidence does not support claims that decriminalizing voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide poses a threat to vulnerable people. “The evidence does not support claims the decriminalization will lead us down a slippery slope from assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia,” says Dr. Schuklenk.

The report was commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada.