Civil law is prescriptive and as such tells us how we ought to behave. But what happens when the prescriptive commands of civil law contradict moral commands? In this post, I will explore this question by looking at a recent decision on assisted suicide in Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the prohibition on assisted suicide in s.241(b) of the Criminal Code is unconstitutional. The court found that Parliament had not demonstrated a connection between prohibiting euthanasia and protecting vulnerable people, arguing that there were other laws already in place to protect against abuse or exploitation.
One may argue this ruling reinforces moral commands because it recognizes an individual’s right to life, liberty and security as well as their right for self-determination; choices which are at the core of what we value about human dignity. It also ensures that individuals who want assistance with ending their lives can do so if they wish without fear of criminal sanctions from state law enforcement organizations such as police officers or prosecutors.