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Right-to-die debate continues

The Story

Following Sue Rodriguez's death, Justice Minister Allan Rock appointed a Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. The committee headed by Liberal Senator Joan Neiman heard from witnesses all across Canada and sifted through hundreds of letters and briefs. The committee finally delivers its long-awaited report 16 months later on June 6, 1995. In a 4-3 split, the committee recommends both euthanasia and assisted suicide remain illegal. The decision is reminiscent of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling and reaction is -- as expected -- divided, reports CBC Radio. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: June 6, 1995
Guest(s): Gerrard Beaudoin, Sharon Carstairs, Chris Considine, Robert Pancratz, Svend Robinson, Mary Williams
Host: Alannah Campbell, Bob Oxley
Reporter: Laura Lynch, Susan McNamee
Duration: 5:37

Did You know?

• The Senate Committee heard from people like Walter Lawrence, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident. "I think it is inherent in all of us to be able to contribute, to give to one another. What we so often do is frame the way we can contribute in a small way... Once it is gone we feel that there is no contribution to be given. It was at that time - and, believe me, I talked about it [suicide] a lot to a lot of people - these people could have said, "Well, yeah, Walt, your life is really of no value, so why don't we help you and assist you toward your desire to end your life?" They did not do that. Thank God, they did not."

• The committee did recommend a third category of murder where either voluntary or non-voluntary killing is carried out on compassionate grounds.
• Sue Rodriguez's fight for the right to die inspired a two-hour CBC movie called At the End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story (1998). It starred Wendy Crewson as Rodriguez, with Al Waxman as John Hofsess, the founder of the Right to Die Society of Canada.

• In 1968, Canadians were first asked about mercy killing. Back then, 45 per cent said yes. By the time Rodriguez came on the scene, the number was 78 per cent. In 1995, the number dipped to 75 per cent and the most recent Gallup poll, for 2002, showed the figure back up at 79 per cent. The results are based on 1000 telephone interviews with adults, 18 years of age and older. A sample of this size is accurate within a 3.1 percentage point margin of error, 19 in 20 times.

• Euthanasia and assisted suicide currently (2004) remain illegal under the Canadian Criminal Code.
• Currently (2004) Oregon, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands are the only jurisdictions in the world permitting euthanasia or assisted suicide. In 1995 Australia's Northern Territory approved a bill on euthanasia but the Australian Parliament overturned it in 1997. That same year, Colombia's Supreme Court ruled to remove penalties for mercy killing but the Colombian Congress has not yet approved the ruling.


Sue Rodriguez and the Right-To-Die Debate more