Prosecutorial discretion in assisted dying in Canada : a proposal for charging guidelines

Downie, Jocelyn & White, Benjamin P. (2012) Prosecutorial discretion in assisted dying in Canada : a proposal for charging guidelines. McGill Journal of Law and Health, 6(2), pp. 113-172.

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An Expert Panel of the Royal Society of Canada and a Select Committee of the Québec National Assembly both recently recommended the issuance of permissive guidelines for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion on voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide and “medical aid in dying” respectively. It seems timely, therefore, to propose a set of offence-specific guidelines for how prosecutorial discretion should be exercised in cases of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canadian provinces and territories. We take as our starting point the only existing guidelines of this sort currently in force in the world (i.e. the British Columbia Guidelines, and the England and Wales Guidelines). In light of certain concerns we have with these guidelines, we outline an approach to constructing guidelines for Canadian jurisdictions that begins with identifying three guiding principles we argue are appropriate for this purpose (respect for autonomy, the need for high-quality prosecutorial decision making, and the importance of public confidence in that decision making), and ends with a concrete and detailed set of proposed guidelines. The paper is consistent with, but also extends, the work of the Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on End of Life Decision Making.

Un panel d’expert de la Société Royale du Canada et une Commission spéciale de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec ont tous les deux récemment recommandé que soit émises des directives permettant exercice d’un pouvoir de poursuite discrétionnaire concernant l’euthanasie et le suicide assisté et « l’assistance médicale pour mourir », respectivement. Il semble donc à propos de proposer une série de directives spécifiques aux offenses sur la façon dont le pouvoir de poursuite discrétionnaire dans les territoires et provinces canadiennes serait appliqué dans les cas d’euthanasie et de suicide assisté. Nous avons pris comme point de départ les seules directives de la sorte existant déjà (c’est-à-dire celle de la Colombie-Britannique et de l’Angleterre et du Pays de Galles). Par contre, compte tenu de certaines de nos réserves concernant ces directives, nous avons ensuite établi les grandes lignes d’une approche permettant de mettre sur pied des directives pour les juridictions canadiennes, qui débute par l’identification de trois principes de base qui sont selon nous appropriées à cette fin (respect de l’autonomie, besoin pour une grande qualité de prise de prise de décision du poursuivant et la confiance du public envers cette prise de décision) pour se terminer par une série de directives concrètes et détaillées. Le présent document est compatible avec le travail de la Société royale du Canada tout en en augmentant la portée.

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ID Code: 57058
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Voluntary euthanasia, Assisted suicide, Prosecutorial discretion, Criminal prosecution, End of life decision making, Canada
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Criminal Law and Procedure (180110)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law and Society (180119)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Jocelyn Downie & Ben White
Deposited On: 08 Feb 2013 01:04
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2013 22:55

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