Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Patients: Canada and Its Carter v. Canada Law

In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Carter v. Canada case to legalize physician-assisted suicide for competent, consenting adults whose suffering is due to a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition and gave Parliament a year to develop a regulatory regime along these “parameters.” The Parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted “Dying” suggested that the “grievous and irremediable” criterion includes nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. The federal government’s Bill C-14, on the other hand, defined “grievous and irremediable” as an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capabilities” in a person for whom “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.” The Senate ultimately passed the bill but the controversy about assisted suicide for psychiatric patients is still raging. In a June 21, 2016 commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal “Should assisted dying for psychiatric disorders be legalized in Canada?”, authors Scott Y.H. Kim MD PhD and Trudo Lemmens LLM DCL warn against this. As they note: In Belgium and the Netherlands, medical assistance in dying has been provided to people with chronic schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe eating disorders, autism, personality disorders and even prolonged grief. The authors conclude that: Because of the necessarily broad criteria used to regulate assisted dying (in Canada), legalizing the practice for psychiatric conditions will likely place already vulnerable patients at risk of premature death. However, others like Belgium psychiatrist Joris Vandenberghe, MD, PhD disagree: “I think the current approach taken by the Canadian government is a bit too strict because it doesn’t fully recognize the enormous impact that psychiatric disorders can have on patients,” Dr Vandenberghe told Medscape Medical News....

Acceptance of OR's Assisted Suicide Case Gives USSC the Chance to Restore Patient Protection (2/05)

The Supreme Court decided to hear the case of Gonzales v. Oregon, the case where Oregon is challenging the Federal government’s authority to regulate prescription drugs for use in assisted suicides.  This presents an opportunity for the Court to clearly re-establish the right of the Federal government to determine and enforce the proper uses of prescription drugs and other controlled substances, according to Americans United for Life. The case is being heard by the Supreme Court after two lower court decisions undercut the authority of the Controlled Substances Act, a Federal law that has been in effect for decades and gives the Federal government to determine the medical use of prescription drugs it regulates. “A state may have power to exempt physicians from liability under state law, but it cannot exempt physicians from federal law,” said Denise Burke, Senior Litigation Counsel at Americans United for Life. “Lower court rulings to the contrary appear to go out of their way to override traditional Federal drug controls allowing the misuse of drugs in Oregon’s unique policy that allows physicians to kill patients. The Supreme Court now has the chance to fix this problem.” “Killing, either by consent or not, is never therapeutic,” Burke continued. AUL attorneys pointed out that the question before the Court is not the validity of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, but whether physicians can use drugs regulated under Federal law for the purpose of killing patients. “The Court is not being asked to invalidate Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Even if the Supreme Court upholds the authority of the Controlled Substances Act, it would simply mean that Oregon physicians cannot...