Legal developments in the United States contributed indirectly to this important moment in Canadian constitutional law. For many years, opponents of physician-assisted suicide have warned that patients may request to die at a moment of psychological weakness; or that they will overlook the possibility that their remaining time on earth will have meaning beyond that which they presently can imagine. (One example they might cite in this regard is Stephen Hawking, who suffers from a slow-progressing form of ALS.)

Perhaps most persuasively, assisted-suicide opponents have used the slippery-slope argument, claiming that any liberalizing in this area will lead to a nightmare society in which the old and infirm will be pressured by greedy, uncaring relatives to sign away their lives prematurely.

But the Supreme Court of Canada specifically cited Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, to the effect that “a [regulatory] system can be designed to protect the socially vulnerable. Expert evidence established that the ‘predicted abuse and disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations has not materialized.’”

Will this Canadian Supreme Court decision help further the cause in the 46 states (all but Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Washington) where physician-assisted suicide is illegal?