From Courtroom to Bedside - A Discussion with Dr. Jeff Blackmer on the Implications of Carter v. Canada and Physician-Assisted Death

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Nicolas Santi



On February 6th, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) concluded that “the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where (1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”[1]. The Court added, “The declaration of invalidity is suspended for 12 months,”[1] to allow the government to respond with appropriate legislation to guide and regulate the practice of Physician-Assisted Death (PAD).

Dr. Jeff Blackmer is the Vice President of Medical Professionalism at the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). He holds a Masters in Medical Ethics from the University of Toronto. He served as the Executive Director of the CMA’s Office of Ethics, Professionalism and International Affairs and has been the interim Director of Ethics for the World Medical Association in Geneva. In an interview on February 11th, Dr. Blackmer kindly agreed to help us navigate through an array of ethical and practical ramifications stemming from the decision on Carter v. Canada.

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1. Supreme Court of Canada. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5. Supreme Court Judgments Case Number 35591. February 6th, 2015. Ottawa, Canada. Available at (Accessed 2015 Feb. 9).

2. Verhagen E, and Sauer PJJ. The Groningen Protocol – Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns. The New England Journal of Medicine 2005; 352:959-962.

3. Canadian Medical Association. Euthanasia and Assisted Death (Update 2014). CMA Policy. Ottawa, Canada. Available at