Following the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Carter v Canada (Attorney General) in 2015, which declared that sections of the Canadian Criminal Code were in violation of an individual’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, change to the Criminal Code exempts certain medical practitioners and individuals from culpable homicide, therefore allowing both voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide, subject to a number of conditions. ‘Assisted dying’ or ‘assisted suicide’ is unlawful in the majority of US states, save for Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Colorado, allow adult residents of their state, who are capable of voluntarily making decisions about their health, and are terminally ill with a prognosis of six months, to seek lethal medication for self-administration. Montana provides a defence for physicians on the event they face homicide changes.
Section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 (as amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009) in England and Wales makes it criminally unlawful for an individual to perform an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, where that individual’s act was intended to encourage, assist or attempt at suicide. There have been a number of challenges to the Suicide Act 1961. In 2014, the Supreme Court considered the state of the law in the context of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which ultimately deferred the matter to Parliament for consideration. Thus far, there have been attempted amendments and several private member’s bills in parliament that have been unsuccessful in changing the law.