Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition summarizes it all quite nicely: “The Supreme Court of Canada has made an activist decision by giving physicians the right in law to cause the death of people by assisted suicide.” I have quickly read the 44-page decision and it seems that the legal reasoning provided is just window dressing on a political choice to throw out the Criminal Code prohibition on physician-assisted suicide. While the SCOC has urged Parliament to write a new law within 12 months, Small Dead Animals tweeted, the SCOC was “Reminding us again that Parliament is largely decorative.” That’s because in 2010, Bill C-384, which sought to legalize euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide was overwhelmingly defeated when the House of Commons voted 228-59. It is also stunning that the decision was unanimous and written anonymously (which is rare). Does that speak to the “weight of the court” as one commentator said, or is it cowardice?

In the 1993 Rodriguez decision, the Court decided (admittedly narrowly) that while Ms. Rodriguez’s security and liberty interests were impinged by section 241(b), “any resulting deprivation is not contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.” What principle of fundamental justice has changed in the intervening 22 years? Even if, as the majority stated in the 1993 decision, that there was then no consensus “opposing the right of the state to regulate the involvement of others in exercising power over individuals ending their lives,” there is now no consensus that state should abandon its traditional protection of vulnerable persons. What has changed is the makeup of the Court, and even after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decade in office and his appointment of half of the Supreme Court’s justices, we still have (all) liberal, activist judges.

But we are not upset with this decision because it was imposed by judges, but because it will kill the sick, disabled, elderly, and otherwise vulnerable. As bad as the process of Canada accepting physician-assisted suicide is, the substance is worse. Schadenberg said: “Giving doctors the right to cause the death of their patients will never be safe and no amount of “so-called safeguards” will protect those who live with depression or abuse. There will always be people who will abuse the power to cause death and there will always be more reasons to cause death.” The Supreme Court dismissed cases of abuse of euthanasia/doctor-assisted “safeguards” as irrelevant anecdotes. That’s a telling insight about how these justices look at actual human lives: irrelevant anecdotes.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Campaign Life Coalition, and other groups opposed to this decision are calling on Parliament to use the notwithstanding clause to prevent this decision from taking effect for five years, and calling upon the federal and provincial governments to improve access to end-of-life care, work to change social attitudes about the lives of people with disabilities, and create effective suicide prevention strategies.

If Parliament and the provinces do not act, the Charter and medicine will become, as Fr. Raymond de Souza said in the National Post yesterday, “a tool of the powerful against the weak.”

UPDATE (11:35): Upon reading the fine print, the EPC considers the decision worse than it suggested in their press release. Will permit active euthanasia, not “just” doctor-assisted suicide. They will release a longer analysis shortly.