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Report No. 196

(4) Rodriguez vs. The Attorney General of Canada and Others: (1993)(3) SCR 519 (Lamer CJ, La Forest, L'Heureu.- Dube, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin, Iacobucci and Major JJ)

The case is very important and deals with a number of legal principles. It dealt with the challenge by a patient to a section in the Criminal Code which prohibited 'assisted-suicide'.

The appellant in the case was 42 years old and was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Her condition was rapidly deteriorating and she would soon loose her ability to swallow, speak, walk and move her body without assistance. Thereafter she will lose the capacity to breathe without a respirator, to eat without a gastronomy and will eventually become confined to bed. Her life expectancy was between 2 to 14 months.

The appellant did not wish to die so long as she still had the capacity to enjoy life, but wished that a qualified physician be allowed to set up technological means by which she might, when she will be no longer able to enjoy life, by her own hand, at the time of her choosing, end her life. She wanted to be assisted in suicide.

She applied to the Supreme Court of British Columbia for a declaration that section 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibits the giving of assistance to commit suicide, be declared invalid on the ground that it violates her rights under ss 7, 12 and 15(1) of the Charter, and is therefore, to that extent it precludes a terminally ill-person from committing 'physician-assisted' suicide, of no force and effect by virtue of section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. (In Canada, as stated in judgment of Sopinka J, attempt to commit suicide was not unlawful but abetment of suicide was an offence.)

Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back

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