The Centre for Cultural Renewal has a brief commentary against “creating a right to death” that is worth reading. I want to highlight one part, entitled, “The State’s Interest in Protecting Human Life”:

It is a well-recognized principle of Canadian law that human life should be protected and preserved. In Rodriguez, Sopinka J. rightly correlated this principle with the policy that the value of human life is depreciated when we allow it to be taken. As he stated:

This policy finds expression not only in the provisions of our Criminal Code which prohibit murder and other violent acts against others notwithstanding the consent of the victim, but also in the policy against capital punishment and, until its repeal, attempted suicide. This is not only a policy of the state, however, but is part of our fundamental conception of the sanctity of human life.This does not mean that human life will be preserved in all circumstances and at all costs. Modern concepts of quality of life, dignity and personal autonomy have come to create limits on the preservation of life that our society and our law have deemed acceptable.

As Sopinka J. noted, attempted suicide is no longer a criminal offence (although he also noted that the offence was removed from the Criminal Code because criminalization was an ineffectual and inappropriate tool for dealing with suicide attempts, not because society no longer wished to prevent suicide). The right of individuals to refuse and control life-saving medical treatment was an accepted tenet of the common law and is now a feature of our constitutional jurisprudence.

These exceptions to the broad general rule preserving human life are grounded in the idea that people should control their own destiny and have a fundamental personal interest in their own life and bodies. This idea is often cited as a premise upon which euthanasia and assisted suicide should be permitted.

However, there is no fundamental “right to die”. Death will eventually meet us all and most people have it within their power to cause this to occur prematurely. This was made clear in Rodriguez, in that the majority held that preventing assisted suicide does not run afoul of the constitutional protection of life, liberty and security of the person.

While the state, through the common law and now the Charter, has limited its own ability to prevent death in some circumstances out of respect for personal autonomy, this limitation must itself be carefully constrained.

Allowing people to die is not the same as causing their death. Bill C-384 would do more than allow people to individually control their personal autonomy and physical destiny. It would involve third parties in the destruction of human life. No adequate safeguards can be created to effectively stop abuses and mistakes. In the Netherlands, assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia are officially illegal, but prosecutions are not brought when there is compliance with medically established guidelines. Critics of this approach point to instances of involuntary active euthanasia where the guidelines have been followed.