Now that suicide is no longer a criminal offence, what arguments, apart from religion, are there against making it a ‘rational choice,’ or a ‘right’? M.M. Chatham, Ont.

Where suicide has been decriminalized, it was not because it was approved but rather because it is now recognized that victims of failed suicide need help, not punishment.

Law has long recognized that the state has a legitimate interest in preventing suicide, and civil law has recognized that citizens have a similar interest in preventing a potential suicide. Such interference for example, by physical restraint, or by use of a stomach pump in the cases of drug over-dose, is not classified by the law as a breach of person’s privacy, not is it assault, battery, or unlawful restraint.

Suicide is a cry for help. If the law were changed so that suicide were to be declared a “right,” either under the Constitution or by legislation, how could a citizen respond to the cry for help? A person would have legal right to kill himself or herself, by poison, hanging, shooting, jumping from a high building or under a train etc., and no one – family, doctor, by-stander would have any right, in law, to interfere. The person, whose life was saved, could sue the rescuer for a breach of his civil right to kill himself, and demand punitive damages. A rescuer, who gave artificial respiration to a man who had tried to gas himself could find himself in court and liable to legal costs and heavy damages.

Today, in North America, suicide is the third cause of death among adolescents, and the rates of suicide are increasing at an alarming rate. Many others are lucky enough to be found in time to save them. By creating a “right” to suicide, the interference by state or citizen would be wrongful. There would be no legal way of helping those whose suicide attempt is a cry for help, by interfering with their attempts to kill themselves, and the helping them to solve their problems later.

Does the UN Charter of Rights for Children protect pre-born children? A friend claims the preamble does. T.P., Markham, Ont.

Do not be misled. The preamble does appear to support “appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” In fact, however, the preamble is just that, a preamble; it is not legally binding, and has no force in law. The truth is that there is no protection for a pre-born child in the Charter itself, and every attempt to give specific legal protection to children conceived but not yet born, was brushed aside and rejected. This should cause no surprise for the UN, through its agencies (e.g. The UN Fund for Population Activities, the World Health Organizations; and collaborating Non-Government Organizations [NGOs], such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation) is the world’s largest and strongest promoter of abortion.

How do we answer a Reform MP, who says he is pro-life, but would vote according to the results of a referendum? NM, Willowdale, Ont.

The classic reply is a statement of Edmund Burke in a speech to his electors in Bristol. “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion” (the “opinion” is the electors).