Supreme Court ruling on assisted suicide – A discussion of neutrality in the library

So last week the Supreme Court of Canada made doctor assisted suicide no longer illegal in Canada. They also gave the government a year to figure out what to do regarding legislation of this change by the high court. The Supreme court ruling  “limits physician-assisted suicide to ‘a competent adult’ who “clearly consents” to end their life, and has an incurable medical condition — an ‘illness, disease or disability’ — that causes “intolerable” suffering. The court said the suffering could be either physical or psychological pain and that the person’s medical condition need not be terminal for them to be permitted to make the decision (Ottawa Citizen – Feb 7, 2015).

So what does this mean for the library? Well for starters, as a librarian you are no longer required to contact the authorities when someone comes in looking for information on how to kill themselves (Privacy of information is important too…I am just using the extreme example). What remains though is as a professional you must maintain a professional and neutral position on the topic. Regardless of your feelings on assisted suicide you are suppose to give the best information possible. If you get involved emotionally or politically you will be effecting your ability to provide information to the patron.

Reference inquiries that could be presented to you regarding the topic could range from an assortment of topics and people. from loved ones trying to help or stop a family member from committing suicide to doctors or patience looking for clarification on the ethics, technicalities, and process of performing assisted suicide.

It is not your place as information professionals to get involved in the discussion of whether or not this is right, but to help as many people who come looking for the information find the best information available. By doing this you educate and inform people of their options, their ethics, and their life choices. All while not interfering and letting them make the final decision.

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