The case was brought by a civil rights group on behalf of two women, Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, with degenerative diseases. Both have since died. The government now has a year to rewrite its law on assisted suicide. If it does not, the current law will be struck down. Assisted suicide is legal in several European countries and a few US states.

In Canada is it illegal to counsel, aid or abet a suicide, and the offence carries up to 14 years in prison. Previous attempts by MP Steven Fletcher on assisted suicide legislation failed in the House of Commons

Canada is not alone in grappling with the thorny issue of dying laws. The debate was reignited in the United States last year by campaigner Brittany Maynard. The 29-year-old was forced to travel from California, where the practice is illegal, to the Oregon where it has been legal since 1997. A legal case is now taking place in New York.  Some politicians in the UK are trying to introduce similar rules, but the government does not back it.

Switzerland allows “assisted suicide”. This does not require a terminal illness, but must be performed by a patient and has led to “suicide-tourism” across Europe. There is a profound gulf between those who think assisted dying is a fundamental human right and those who have ethical objections and worry about the implications for the disabled and vulnerable.

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