Margaret Somerville

Margaret Somerville

March 19, 2012

REGINA – Health care encompasses the only experiences all Canadians have in common, birth and death, said bioethicist Dr. Margaret Somerville.

Because of that common experience, health care has become the new forum in which Canadians discuss their shared values, Somerville said in a Feb. 16 lecture at the University of Regina.

Every society has shared values that bind its members together, said Somerville, founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and the Law in Montreal.

In the past, these values were shared in a religious context; however today, in a secular, multicultural Canada, this is no longer possible, she said.

Health care, she said, is the new forum to discuss shared values because it's the only experience Canadians have in common.

"Ethics is the process of deciding which values take priority," said Somerville.


There is a major divide in Canada, she said, over whether respect for life or respect for individual autonomy should be the dominant value.

"There is still a place for religion in our society" and religious voices need to be heard as Canadians discuss topics such as euthanasia and artificial human reproduction, she said.

Somerville's talk was the annual Woodrow Lloyd lecture and was protested by a small group of students because of her conservative views.