Canada's highest court has unanimously struck down a ban on doctor-assisted suicide for mentally competent but suffering and "irremediable" patients. The Supreme Court's decision today sweeps away the existing law and gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of consenting adults who are enduring intolerable suffering to seek medical help ending their lives. The judgment says the current ban infringes on the life, liberty, and security of individuals under the country's constitution.
It had previously been illegal in Canada to counsel, aid, or abet a suicide, an offense carrying a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The decision reverses a ruling the Supreme Court made in 1993. At the time, the court was primarily concerned that vulnerable people couldn't be properly protected under physician-assisted suicide. (Read more Canada stories.)