In my view of humanism, compassion and a desire to minimize harm serve as human moral foundations.
It is for this reason, I consider Gloria Taylor and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s victory in the BC Supreme Court to be a profoundly good thing. The ruling strikes down a ban on doctor-assisted dying.
The case rested on the fact that suicide has been legal in Canada since 1972, so banning assisted suicide removes a right from those with disabilities. Furthermore, since the Sue Rodriguez case in the early 1990s, numerous jurisdictions have passed and studied assisted suicide laws, including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Oregon. The evidence from these test cases show that the worst fears are not realized and there is no slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia and systemic elder abuse.
In striking down the prohibition, the court is providing the federal government with a year to draft new legislation – or to appeal the ruling – while Taylor can seek to end her life in peace when she is ready.
Polls are showing that a majority of Canadians are supportive of increasing our end of life options, while the main opponents include religious conservatives and parliamentarians who would rather not touch the issue. Catholics and Christians continue to argue that life is sacred, yet what value does a life have if it lacks freedom and is forced to live in agony and suffering?