Canada’s parliamentarians have been offered two distinct arguments to excuse doing nothing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s instruction to decriminalize assisted suicide within 12 months. A number of law professors and ethicists suggest (1) it’s a health concern and thus it’s provincial and (2) as a liberal society, with a liberal Charter, we can leave it to individual choice.
Canadians, along with their Supreme Court, prefer to put the individual first. So, should assisted suicide be delegated to those who are suffering and their doctors? Or do we, through Parliament, have a collective obligation to set binding national conditions on how the crime of assisted death is withdrawn?
We provide universal health care nationwide to relieve suffering, require seat belts and vaccinations, and harass smokers from coast to coast because we carry a bearable obligation to support the well-being of fellow Canadians. We interfere collectively with other people’s “security of person” when, after public consideration and democratic consent, we decide it’s for their own good.
Accordingly, we only permit our delegated professionals (MDs) to prescribe drugs when they believe the drugs may do more good than harm.
Therefore, before a doctor helps a patient end his/her life, shouldn’t that doctor, as our delegated "brother’s keeper," also have to believe — and document — that the patient would be better dead than alive?
Surely, traditional liberals and social conservatives can start their deliberations by agreeing to address this un-simple imperative.