Law Matters | Summer 2016

Well. This issue of Law Matters, “Sex, Drugs & Assisted Dying,” seeks to challenge readers and provoke personal examination of our feelings on some pretty divisive issues – basically relating to the relationship between our legal system and our personal autonomy. Can we consent to BDSM sex? Why and how should we deal with legalization of marijuana, and is the S.C.C. case in Carter a welcome breath of respect for personal autonomy, or a degradation of society’s respect to “life”?

The articles in this issue, while divergent (intentionally) on the points in question, are all, in my opinion, extremely well-written and thought provoking. 

And there’s the point. To provoke thought. Not to preach to the converted. Not to solidify the political base, or to polarize – but, quite the opposite. To bring much needed broad and varied discussion to some very difficult issues, and I think our contributors have done an admirable job. The next part of the “job” is up to the readers.

Most of our readers are lawyers, so they might consider themselves somewhat skilled in understanding moral ambiguity:  the need to consider two sides of an argument.

I would suggest, however, that we as lawyers are just as subject to “confirmation bias” as any other human being – the tendency to look for information to confirm our preconceptions. We “think” we’re weighing arguments, when, in fact, we’re sifting out the stuff that we disagree with, and holding onto the stuff that accords with our world view.

So – here’s my challenge. Read this issue with a view to challenge your initial point of view. If you are opposed to the Carter decision on assisted dying – pay particular attention to the article from Emma Carver, “Preserving Life through Death.”  Feel her anguish and empathy for clients seeking to end their suffering on their own terms. And push yourself to consider why the argument you hold might just be wrong.

Read this whole issue with a view to challenge your own biases. Are you sexually assaulting your wife as you kiss her to wake her from her sleep?  Ummni Khan, in the article “Hot for Kink, Bothered by the Law” suggests that, maybe, you are. 

In the current climate of 140 character Twitter, entertainment masquerading as “news”, and politicians selling votes like Pepsi sells soda, it is, perhaps, more important than ever that we challenge ourselves and our preconceptions on important issues. That we look at things more deeply. 

With great appreciation to Joshua Sealy-Harrington and Ola Malik who managed this issue, they have brought together eight extremely well-written articles which, no doubt, will challenge you, if you have the courage to be challenged.

Here’s to courageous readers.

Robert G. Harvie, QC
August 8, 2016

Download this issue in PDF format.