Assisted dying now legal across Canada and California

9 June, 2016

2016 06 09 LW v1 Congrats US and Canada
The BHA has issued its heartfelt congratulations to campaigners in Canada and California

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has congratulated campaigners in Canada and the US state of California, where new legal settlements affirming the right to die in both territories have now come into effect.

These new laws differ in scope, but both assert the fundamental principles of autonomy and dignity for those suffering with intolerable conditions. The Parliament of Canada is set to bring forward new legislation in the coming months to clarify the full implications of the Carter ruling.

In Canada, where the unanimous Carter v Canada Supreme Court decision has taken effect in the absence of other legislation, it is now legal for Canadians who are ‘grievously and irremediably ill’ to ‘seek a physician’s assistance in dying’, representing the right to die for millions of Canadians suffering from both terminal and otherwise incurable conditions. Meanwhile, California’s End of Life Option Act more narrowly legalises physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented,

‘This is a hugely significant moment in the history of our species, as two of the world’s largest and most influential population centres recognise the right to die for their citizens.

‘The last time this issue went before the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom, it recognised assisted dying as one of the most pressing legal and ethical challenges of our time, and set down that if Parliament failed to pass legislation on the issue, it reserved the right to rule again. Unlike the Californian senate, the UK Parliament and Scottish Parliament both failed to act on this issue when given the opportunity last year, meaning it must once again return to the courts if we are ever to strike down the UK’s cruel and inhumane restrictions on the right to die.

‘We support assisted dying for all those who have made a clear decision, free from coercion, to end their lives but who cannot physically do so themselves. This principle is supported by a majority of people in Britain. In time we hope that we can raise funds to take this issue back to the courts and bring about a humane change in the law once and for all.’


For further comment or information contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Pavan Dhaliwal at or on 0773 843 5059.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethically and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion of belief.