10/14/2014 02:12 EDT | Updated 12/14/2014 05:59 EST

Five elements of assisted suicide case being heard Wednesday at Supreme Court

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday in a long-awaited court challenge to the constitutionality of Canada's laws prohibiting assisted suicide. Here are five things to know about the case:

— The Supreme Court has ruled on assisted suicide before, concluding in 1993 that while existing laws did violate some charter rights, those deprivations were justified.

— The plaintiffs in this case are arguing that since the court's last decision, there has been a major change the way society looks at the issue and also how the court has defined the nature of those charter rights.

— The federal government argues new laws on assisted suicide have come before Parliament nine times in the last 20 years and have never been passed, suggesting society is not demanding the change.

— The plaintiffs also argue that existing laws treat disabled people unfairly, as they do not have the same access to the ability to take one's own life as do able-bodied people.

— The federal government argues that only a total prohibition of assisted suicide protects the lives of the vulnerable from those who might encourage them to end their own lives.