Medically assisted suicide: Recent jurisprudence and the challenges for law reform Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Decisions on the issue of medically assisted suicide were delivered within a two-year period by the Supreme Court of Ireland (Fleming v Ireland [2013] IESC 19), the Supreme Court of Canada (Carter v Canada (Attorney General) [2015] 1 SCR 331; 2015 SCC 5), the High Court of South Africa (Stransham-Ford v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 (4) SA 50; [2015] 3 All SA 109; [2015] ZAGPPHC 230 (GP)), and the High Court of New Zealand (Seales v Attorney-General [2015] 3 NZLR 556; [2015] NZHC 1239). This editorial scrutinises the jurisprudence generated by the decisions, identifies their ramifications and argues that it is likely that the combination of the carefully constructed judgments, together with their reception by the legal, medical and general communities, will lead to an increasing impetus for end-of-life law reform in many countries. It reviews the June 2016 report of the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Legislative Council of the Victorian Parliament as an example of such reform initiatives. The challenge for those who wish to construct such changes to the law is to fashion legislative regimes which provide adequate protection to patients, as well as to the life-saving culture of medicine, and to safeguard dignity but ensure that respect for the quality of life is not eroded by pressures to end lives that some regard as no longer having value.

publication date

  • June 1, 2016