One of the most difficult subjects to deal with is assisted suicide. Especially in Canada, where we battle between our desire to provide people with dignity and a good quality of life, while respecting life itself, we have chosen to ban assisted suicide or its more active cousin euthanasia but this may not be the case for much longer.
An article in this month's The Walrus outlines the struggle for pro-choice advocates, and how their big chance came in the form of an official objection to the abortion ban. It was championed and fought fiercely all the way up to the supreme court, setting the precedent that legalized abortion. The Walrus speculates that it was this process of outright genuine objection that caused Canadians to take a critical look at the issue, meaning it was finally the elephant putting its foot in the popcorn that meant we could no longer ignore it in our living room. They further the point by outlining that it is this process that is needed to legalize assisted suicide.
Although the issue itself is up for debate, and even the process by which we may uncover the truly Canadian belief in the matter, what I feel is unchangeable is the outcome. Assisted suicide will become legal in Canada. It simply must.
Much like in macroeconomics, if the prices in one country are too low the international community takes notice and drives up the demand, thus increasing the prices to the conventional point. The demand for assisted suicide will cause Canada to lose revenue to other countries where the process is legal, until such a point when we are functionally forced to allow it. One of two situations must hold: Demand is increasing or demand is decreasing. In cases where demand is decreasing, Canada can simply table the issue until the public finds some other shiny issue and wanders off, but if demand is increasing, the government will be forced to notice the issue and eventually legalize it (Pot smokers, take note.)
Not only that but the whole issue raises another set of issues; whether Canada has the right to ban someone from traveling to another country to engage in assisted suicide. Obviously Canada cannot prosecute someone for engaging in an activity that was legal in the country it was preformed in, but this principle makes laws dangerous arbitrary. The difference between allowing someone to travel to another country to kill themselves and allowing someone to travel to another building to kill themselves makes us wonder what exactly the point of the ban is attempting to prove.
The main forerunner for the assisted suicide debate will undoubtedly be abortion; a country cannot condone abortion but turn its nose up at euthanasia (you either favor choice over life or not) but it is strange, unintuitive, that it should happen in this backwards fashion. One would assume that abortion would be the tougher case to plead, but perhaps it has had a larger underground market. The main advocate for assisted suicide are the people who, once their goal is achieved, are not in a position to make a statement, whereas the supporters of abortion are the women who desire abortions, and may be very vocal about it. In addition to this, a failed abortion risks two lives, but a suicide only risks one, and in fact, only the one that is desired to be ended. In essence, the main risk in abortion is quantity of lives, but the main risk in suicide is quality of death.
The argument that pushed abortion could be tidily used to support euthanasia as well; if you don't legalize it, it will continue in less safe circumstances. People will still want the control to end their own lives; an unmonitored system simply runs the risk of abuse. It is functionally more negligent to pretend the issue does not exist rather than address it and deal with it, and the "Head in the Sand" approach has never served us well.
The main objection to the argument will be swiftly undone once alternate countries are considered; It is theorized that once we allow assisted suicide, the door will open to a society where we have no respect for human life. This is referred to as the "slippery slope" argument and it can be effectively undone in two steps: one, show that the four European countries it is allowed in have no experienced rampant murder as a result of the legalized suicide and two, show that even though Canadians are allowed to travel to other countries Canada has not experienced a rash of rampant murders either.
Anyway, regardless of where you stand on the issue, the fact remains, the next big change to Canadian law is going to be assisted suicide and it is likely to happen, depending on the motivation of its advocates, in the next decade.