Canada Legalizes Physician-Assisted Dying

In February 2015, Canada legalized physician-assisted dying — a first among countries with common-law systems, in which law is often developed by judges through case decisions and precedent. The Supreme Court of Canada issued the decision in Carter v. Canada

Read the full article here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1502442

The judgment portends changes outside Canada. Imitation is a feature of the common-law world, and if physician-assisted dying is litigated in England, India, or South Africa, for example, odds are high that judges would draw on the Canadian Court’s reasoning. Societies are also changing, and in coming decades aging populations with growing affluence and incidence of chronic illness will increasingly question the medical and legal orthodoxies regarding the end of life. Given the flow of legal ideas and shifting demographics, change and convergence around physician-assisted dying as a standard of care seem inevitable.

These developments will trouble people who instinctively find legalized physician-assisted dying repellent. But increasingly, society is acknowledging that denying people the right to die with dignity and safety is even more repellent.

Editor’s Note: This is in line with our prediction that euthanasia will become commonplace in liberal-democratic nations around the world. Our prediction remains on track and we should see euthanasia being mainstream by 2025.

Of greater concern is the risk that failing governments will cause a rise in “iatrogenic-induced deaths” as the continued breakdown of societies accelerates.