What’s At Stake in Friday’s Supreme Court Decision on Assisted Suicide

By February 17, 2015 Recent News

Media Release: Council of Canadians with Disabilities 4 February 2015
Whatever decision the Supreme Court of Canada makes in the Carter vs. Canada ruling to be released on Friday – to hold the line against assisted suicide in the Criminal Code, or to strike it down – the public standards of what it means to live a dignified life are at stake. At the core is a question about what it means to live a meaningful life until the end – and in our Canadian society, a decision from the court cannot reflect the complexity of these choices in anyone’s individual life.
If the Court strikes down the prohibition against assisted suicide, the fears of some will be assuaged by the knowledge that, at a time of their choosing, they may seek state-sanctioned intervention to cause their death. But for a growing group of Canadians whose daily lives fundamentally depend on the personal care and support of others, their fears are only heightened by such an outcome.
What is the basis for this fear? For those who receive care, for those who provide care, and for those who advocate for equality and inclusion alongside a wide variety of Canadians, the risk is palpable. Dependence upon others will come to be seen as a suffering too great to bear. The risk is that in private conversations, in policy choices and in adjudicated determinations, dependence will come to be equated with indignity when actually it is an essential part of living. And the larger fear is that the shape of such a life will become a good reason to seek its termination.
The risk of this cultural slide may well present the biggest challenge to Canadian values in our generation, the underlying value of an individual life.