Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia
What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly causing the death of a patient. If someone other than the person who dies performs the last act, euthanasia has occurred.
For example, if a person administers a lethal injection or puts a plastic bag over a patient’s head to suffocate him/her, euthanasia has taken place.
Euthanasia is sometimes called “aid-in-dying,” “mercy killing,” “death with dignity,” etc.
Euthanasia is NOT:
- Respecting a person’s wish to refuse or stop a treatment that is of no benefit
- Withdrawing or withholding a treatment from a person who is dying when the burden outweighs the benefit
- Giving drugs to relieve pain if an unintended effect is to shorten a dying person’s life. It is important to remember that euthanasia must involve the specific intent to end a person’s life.
- Withdrawing “extraordinary care” (medical procedures in which the burden outweighs the benefit; means that are dangerous or above and beyond standard and reasonable means to preserve life to its natural end). Example: Cancer victim receives chemotherapy several times, finds it ineffective, and doctor respects the wish of the patient to forgo the treatment in order to avoid side effects.
What is Assisted Suicide?
Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally, knowingly and directly providing the means of death to another person so that the person can use that means to commit suicide. If the person who dies performs the last act, assisted suicide has occurred.
For example, if a doctor writes a prescription for an intentional overdose of drugs for a patient to use to commit suicide and if the patient who dies performs the last act (the act of swallowing), assisted suicide has taken place.
Assisted-suicide is sometimes called “aid-in-dying,” “death with dignity,” “physician-assisted death,” etc.
We believe that neither consent nor motive changes the reality that both assisted suicide and euthanasia involve killing another human being. Killing the patient should never be the treatment for suffering.
What is the law in Canada concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide?
The Canadian Criminal Code does not address euthanasia. Killing a person is addressed under Homicide Section 222, Murder Section 229, Manslaughter Section 224, Punishment for Murder, Section 235, and Punishment for Manslaughter Section 236. Assisted Suicide is directly addressed under Counselling or Aiding Suicide, Section 241 and Administering Noxious Thing, Section 245.