Reviving the End-of-Life Debate

December 2012


Left to right: Honorary president, Dr Richard Cruess, Professor Rosalie Jukier, LLM student Keith Lenton, Professor Margaret Somerville, Professor Daniel Weinstock and Assistant Dean Véronique Bélanger.

Professors Margaret Somerville and Daniel Weinstock debated the controversial issue of physician-assisted suicide after Carter v. Canada (A.G.) at McGill’s latest CLE session.

Dr Richard Cruess gave the opening remarks.

Prof. Daniel Weinstock spoke first.

Prof. Margaret Somerville gave the counter-argument.

Over 300 lawyers and notaries flocked to the Faculty on November 27 for a fiery debate between Professors Margaret Somerville and Daniel Weinstock of the legal issues surrounding physician-assisted suicide, comprising the latest Barreau-accredited event in the Faculty of Law’s Une pensée d’avance / Think Ahead continuing legal education (CLE) series.

In his opening remarks, the lecture’s Honorary President and former Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Richard Cruess, pointed out that in both medicine and law, “we are answerable to society for our own activities, yet we must also reflect societal values, particularly on issues that centre around the beginning and the end of life.” And on such controversial issues, Dr. Cruess added, “the discourse must take place.”

McGill University counts among its faculty members “two of the most respected voices on this subject in Canada,” said Assistant Dean (Strategic Planning) Véronique Bélanger, a co-convenor of the CLE series.

Speaking first was political philosopher and ethicist Daniel Weinstock, the founding director of both the Public Health Ethics Committee of Quebec and the Centre de recherche en éthique de l’Université de Montréal, who participated in The Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on End-of-Life Decision Making, and now teaches ‘Law and Health Care,’ among other classes, at the Faculty of Law (see “New Faces at the Faculty,” Focus Online Sept 2012).

Representing the counter-argument was Professor of Medicine and Samuel Gale Professor of Law Margaret Somerville, the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, author of Death Talk: The Case against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (MQUP, 2001), among many more publications.

Graduate student Keith Lenton provided the necessary background material with a brief Prezi presentation connecting the 1993 Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General) to last June’s lengthy decision by the B.C. Supreme Court on Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).

“I think it was a superb evening,” said Professor Rosalie Jukier, series co-convenor and Associate Dean (Graduate Studies). “It showed the essence of McGill’s Faculty of Law, namely that it is a place where students and professors engage in spirited and articulate intellectual debate on important contemporary legal and societal issues.”

The Une pensée d’avance / Think Ahead CLE series will continue in the new year with three more lectures on issues at the very heart of contemporary legal discourse.

The first, on January 29, 2013, is entitled “Private International Law: Where to Sue after the Supreme Court decision in Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda.” The second, on February 19, will cover “New Developments in Copyright at the Supreme Court level.” And the final session of the year, addressing “The Niqab in the Courtroom: N.S. v. R.,” will take place on March 19.

For more information and to register, please visit the CLE website.

Text by Bridget Wayland
Photos by Lysanne Larose

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