Assisted Suicide in Canada (Part I): Introduction
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Almost 20 years ago the Supreme Court of Canada began hearing the case of Sue Rodriguez, a sufferer of ALS, who petitioned the Court for medically assisted suicide. That case was unsuccessful but on Oct. 15 the Court began hearing a case based on the late Gloria Taylor, also a sufferer of ALS, who wanted medical aid in her dying.
When Juris Diction was founded this year, it was conceived as a place for students to express their views in a safe and supportive atmosphere. This case represents an opportunity for us, as law students, to deepen the dialogue and engage with the wider polity. We hope this project does just that. Over the coming weeks we hope to publish a number of pieces by students, lawyers, doctors, ethicists, and members of the wider public.
This is a contentious issue for Canadians. This goes beyond the legal and medical, encouraging us to consider the moral and existential ramifications of public policy. We hope the opinions we highlight give our readers an appreciation for the complexity of the issues. We hope it will help move the dialogue away from ad hominems and caricatures and towards the respectful exchange of ideas.
As we explorer these questions of death and dying I can’t help but be reminded of the villanelle by Dylan Thomas imploring his father to rage against the dying of the light. The empathy for the dying it invokes can’t be forgotten. At the heart of the issue, beyond the legal concerns, are the lives of real people who are approaching the closing of the day and the dying of the light.
Jonathan Nehmetallah (2L) is the Managing Editor of Juris Diction.
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For Katherine Deakon’s opinion piece on assisted suicide, visit Part II here. For medical student Sophie Palmer’s article, visit Part III here. Dr. Udo Schuklenk’s article can be found here. For Dr. Kaplan’s opinion piece, visit Part V here.