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Euthanasia. AND THE SUE RODRGUEZ CASE IN CANADA. Thanks to my “Issues in Bioethics” Winter 2009 students for this presentation. It has been slightly altered by teacher. the Sue Rodriguez Case: euthanasia vs. assisted suicide.

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Thanks to my “Issues in Bioethics” Winter 2009 students for this presentation. It has been slightly altered by teacher.


the Sue Rodriguez Case:

euthanasia vs.

assisted suicide

Euthanasia: “Good Death” (Greek), also “the intentional termination of life by another at the explicit request of the person who dies." (2).

•passive: ceasing medical intervention sustaining a person’s life, thus resulting in death. (ex: removal of life support or ending medical procedures.)

•active: specific steps taken to end a person’s life. (ex: lethal injection)


the Sue Rodriguez Case:

euthanasia vs.

assisted suicide

Assisted Suicide (a.k.a: Physician Assisted Suicide):

• When information and/or means of terminating the patient’s life are provided by a physician upon request, allowing the individual to commit suicide at will. (ex: provision of a lethal dose of sleeping pills, CO2 gas.)

euthanasia and assisted suicide
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is a criminal act in Canada (punishable by up to 14 years in prison) according to section 241 of the Criminal Code

Most other countries have similar prohibitions

The state of Oregon in the United States, and the Netherlands and Belgium being an exception. (3)


the Sue Rodriguez Case

Sue Rodriguez:

• diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 1991. (progressive, neurodegenerative disease - causes weakening of muscles and eventual atrophy (wasting away) of body parts. )

• advocate of the legal right to assisted suicide and “dying with dignity”.



the Sue Rodriguez Case

•Went before the Supreme Court of Canada twice to fight for her cause: the legal right to assisted suicide.

• progression of physical disability and deterioration until death in 1994. (3 years after diagnosis.)

Image from the film “At the End of the Day”.


the Sue Rodriguez Case

“I want to ask you gentlemen, if I cannot give consent to my own death, then whose body is this? Who owns my life?”

-Sue Rodriguez (in presentation to House of Common’s subcommittee, Nov 1992).


the Sue Rodriguez Case

  • Arguments by Rodriguez:
  • • People who wish to die but are not disabled can do so.
  • But people who wish to die, yet are physically incapable of committing suicide themselves, should be legally allowed to do so- with the assistance of a doctor.
  • Otherwise this would be discrimination.
  • Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that everyone hs the right to “life, liberty and security of the person”
  • •If denied assisted suicide, Rodriguez argued, her rights of personal liberty and autonomy under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be violated.

the Sue Rodriguez Case

Court’s decision:

• there is no Canadian “legal right to die”, and therefore, denying Sue Rodriguez the legal right to assisted suicide does not violate her Charter rights.

• emphasis upon the importance of society’s commitment to the preservation of human life:

“Her illness may restrict the ability to implement her decisions (to commit suicide) but in my opinion, that does not amount to an infringement of a right to life, liberty or security of the person by the state.”-Justice Melvin.


the Sue Rodriguez Case

• emphasis upon the protection of the vulnerable:

“Section 241[which denies assisted suicide] protects the innocent, the mentally incompetent and the depressed,”

-Justice Allen Melvin.

Dec. 30, 1992:

The B.C Supreme Court voted 5-4 against Rodriguez’s case.

•closely divided vote viewed as representative of Canadian society’s divided opinion and the ambiguity surrounding the moralistic implications in the practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide.


Works Cited

  • No artist. “Sue Rodriguez fought the law prohibiting assisted suicide all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but lost. (Canadian Press)” No date. Online Image. 18 February 2009. <>
  • No artist. No Date. Online Image. <>
  • 3. Robinson, B.A. “EUTHANASIA AND PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE: INTRODUCTION” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 1997-2002.
  • <>

4. “Assisted Suicide vs Euthanasia: the Right to Die” Associated Content: Health and Wellness. 11 April 2006. <>

5. Video: “B.C Court Refuses Rodriguez’s Plea” <>