Permitting Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Law Reform Pathways for Common Law Jurisdictions

Jocelyn Downie

Abstract


End of life law and policy reform is the subject of much discussion around the world. This paper explores the pathways to permissive legal regimes that have been tried in various common law jurisdictions. These include legislation, prosecutorial charging guidelines, court challenges, jury nullification, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the absence of offence-specific charging guidelines, and the exercise of judicial discretion in sentencing. In this paper, I describe these pathways as taken (or attempted) in five common law jurisdictions (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) and reflect briefly on lessons that can be drawn from the recent experiences with law reform in Canada. Through its bird’s eye view, it highlights the remarkable number and variable nature of past attempts at law reform and suggests a shifting tide. It debunks some common myths that have either limited or stymied reform in the past. Finally, it illuminates jurisdictional similarities and differences and lessons learned by those who have gone before so as to inform choices about pathways to pursue for those who will seek to advance a law reform agenda in the future.

Keywords


Health Law; Assisted Suicide; Law and Policy

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