On June 28, 2018, Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) hosted a Book Launch Luncheon at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law to commemorate the publication of Assisted Death: Legal, Social and Ethical Issues after Carter, edited by CLF’s Executive Director and General Counsel, Derek B.M. Ross, and featuring contributions from several CLF members.
About the book
Physician-assisted dying, or “medical assistance in dying” (MAID), as it is now known, was decriminalized in certain circumstances as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2015 decision in Carter v Canada (Attorney General) and implemented through Bill C-14 in 2016. This timely collection of 13 papers—developed out of CLF's 2017 Academic Symposium featuring leading experts and on constitutional, health, and human rights law—examines the social, ethical and legal implications of the Carter I and Carter II decisions and offers meaningful reflections on the many perplexing questions currently being asked about MAID.
About the Launch
The Launch event began with warm greetings from Sarah Mix-Ross (Christian Legal Fellowship), Ian Sinke (CLF UofT Student Chapter), Teresa Chan (LexisNexis Canada), and Dean Edward Iacobucci (University of Toronto Faculty of Law). These welcoming remarks were followed by a presentation from Prof. Trudo Lemmens, a contributor to the book, and the Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. The closing presentation was provided by the General Editor, Derek Ross.
Prof. Trudo Lemmens' presentation
Prof. Trudo Lemmens' presentation was titled, “Reflections on the Canadian MAID debate and the Relevance of International Developments.”
Prof. Lemmens mentioned that his involvement in research and debate surrounding MAID began by observing the respective developments in Belgium and Netherlands; his impression was that media reports have likely affected the way the public thinks and talks about MAID. Additionally, when the Carter decision was being released, many of his colleagues as well as the general media interpreted the practice as widely accepted, that is, as a constitutional right. He noted that this presumption inspired him to prepare an article for this Book on the matter. One of the things he found striking was that medical and advocacy groups promoted the view that access to MAID should be a norm, rather than a measure of last resort (as remains the norm in most jurisdictions). The debates surrounding MAID involve issues of autonomy, religion, human rights, and freedom of conscience, to name just a few.
In regards to the Book, Prof. Lemmens observed that Christian Legal Fellowship was responsible for bringing together a diverse group of esteemed scholars with many views on both sides of the debate. The Book, in his view, provides a critical analysis on the issue of MAID and makes a valuable contribution to the public debate. He encouraged the Launch attendees to consider examining other arguments related to the topic, including those concerning patients suffering from dementia. He also mentioned that cases such as Truchon c Procureur général du Canada and Lamb v Canada require closer examination as potential sources for influencing public opinion; all of which are explored in the Book.
Prof. Lemmens' contribution to the book, an article titled "Charter Scrutiny of Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying Law and the Shifting Landscape of Belgian and Dutch Euthanasia Practice" is available for download here.
From the Editor
Professor Lemmens’ thought-provoking presentation was followed by a message from Mr. Derek Ross, the General Editor. On behalf of Christian Legal Fellowship, Mr. Ross began his presentation by giving thanks for the invaluable contribution of those present: authors Prof. Lemmens and Mr. David Baker, Teresa Chan for her dedicated effort in seeing the collection published by LexisNexis, Ian Sinke and UofT for hosting, and the Launch attendees for their support. He emphasized that it is critical that lawyers, students, academics and other professionals do not consider the issue of MAID or the Carterdecision as closed topics, but instead as the beginning of meaningful public dialogue.
Mr. Ross also observed that questions explored in the Book, such as whether every physician would be forced to perform MAID and whether there is a room for professional disagreement about MAID, have also been raised in the Courts (by Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Lamb, and Truchon).
Ongoing cases such as Lamb and Truchon require that we pause, to debate, and to consider how we value “life”, “death”, and the “vulnerable”, as well as how we define “assisted suicide”, and “suicide”. It should be noted that “suicide” is still expressly referred to in the Preamble of Bill C-14 (Canada’s federal legislation allowing MAID under certain circumstances) as “a significant public health issue that can have lasting and harmful effects on individuals, families and communities.” Mr. Ross further remarked that the Book deals with issues concerning palliative care, religious institutions, minors and persons with dementia, all of which are relevant to the present discourse.
It is important, Mr. Ross added, that we never stop dialoguing on such fundamental issues surrounding life and death; this Book is but one means to enter into such a debate.
Mr. Ross concluded with a quote from the dissenting opinion of Justices Brown and Côté in the recent Trinity Western University decision, which cited Prof. Dwight Newman (who also contributed to Assisted Death), as follows:
Derek Ross’ contribution to the book, an article titled “Complicity, Autonomy, and Conscience: Charter Implications of the ‘Duty to Refer’ for Physician-Assisted Suicide” is available for download here.