NEWS

Assisted suicide response coming from government today

07/17/2015 11:14 EDT | Updated 07/17/2016 05:59 EDT
The federal government is set to release its plan to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on doctor-assisted dying, CBC News has learned.

The government will set out today how it will consult Canadians on what to do now that the court has determined Canadians under certain circumstances have the right to seek a doctor's help in dying.

Last February, Canada's top court ruled people with grievous and irremediable medical conditions should have the right to ask a doctor to help them die.

The case was brought forward by Kathleen Carter, 89, who had the painful degenerative condition spinal stenosis. Her daughter, Lee, took her to Switzerland in 2010 for an assisted death. 

The court limited the right to competent adults with enduring, intolerable suffering who clearly consent to ending their lives.

But the language leaves several big questions for lawmakers and those who regulate the medical profession.

The court didn't limit the right to those with physical suffering, leaving the possibility those with severe depression and mental illness could ask for the right to die. And while the language is plain, "grievous" is hard to define in medical terms.

The court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands until Feb. 6, 2016.

If the government doesn't write a new law, the court's exemption for physicians will stand.

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