Editorial – No Duty to Live

The big story in the news this morning is the Supreme Court’s announcement that while the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives Canadians a Right to Life, it does not impose upon Canadians a Duty to Live. The context, of course, is the issue of assisted suicide.

In brief, the BC Civil Liberties Association took up the case of Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, who sued for the right to have a doctor assist them with their suicide, as their degenerative illnesses would have prevented them from being able to do so on their own. At the end of a long road, the Supreme Court agreed in a ruling signed by all nine judges, that in cases of grievous and irremediable medical conditions, not allowing them to seek assistance in the matter of their own death was discriminatory and against the Charter. It was also very clear in that the person must be able to provide informed consent to the procedure.

It did not, however, go on to define exactly what constitutes grievous and irremediable, saying that the lower courts have enough expertise to be able to deal with that question should it arise, including the issue as to whether depression or other mental difficulties could be classified as grievous and irremediable. This has some parties concerned that it could lead to “suicide-on-demand”, but a similar lack of legalities exist around third trimester abortions, yet these almost never happen, simply because the legalities (both on this issue and abortion) allow doctors to use their conscience in deciding whether to engage in these procedures. It’s given the government a year to come up with alternative legislation to better deal with the issue of assisted suicide if it so wishes, but otherwise, the court’s ruling will essentially become the law of the land.

Personally, my feelings on this ruling can be summed up as “huzzah” and it comes as a nice cap to the week as many of the articles in this issue of The Voice Magazine touch on the issue of the power of individuals. From our feature interview with Dr. Jon Dron, whose innovative teaching method requires that the student be mostly in charge of their own learning, to the Primal Numbers column that looks at a new technology that could be both an amazing boon and a horrible nightmare at the exact same time. The idea of a person being in control of their own body and mental state being sacrosanct seems to be coming closer to reality with each passing year.

And while I’m actually a large supporter of the idea that citizens of a society have a duty to the public of that society, that duty ends where it compromises what a person can or cannot do with their own body. So having to do a long form census? That, to me, fits in with the idea of jury duty, or getting a social insurance number, or paying taxes. It’s something that we do to better our society that provides so many opportunities and safeguards for us. Being required to live beyond the point in time where you feel comfortable doing so? That’s nobody else’s business but my own. Even my family, ultimately, should have no say in the matter (although if a person doesn’t consider the feelings and well-being of those they care about before going through with something like that, they’re a dick).

Enjoy the read!

Correction Notice
Recently, the Voice Magazine ran a two part interview with musician, Mehmet
Polat. It was brought to our attention that we mistakenly misspelled his name,
and consequently the name of his group through-out both articles. We want to
present our humblest apologies, and suggest to Voice Readers that if you were
searching for the various works we referenced by this artist to please do so
again, but this time with the correct spelling of his name “Mehmet Polat”.