By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News
[Ottawa – CCN] – Opponents of the expansion of euthanasia in Canada charge that the federal government is abdicating its responsibilities to the courts and is breaking its own promise by rushing to change the rules surrounding euthanasia in reaction to a Quebec court decision before a promised five-year review of the medically-provided death system and palliative care in Canada is undertaken first.
Making it easier for Canadians to kill themselves legally with the help of a doctor without making a nation-wide review of access and quality of palliative care options in Canada a priority is a “failure” of leadership, charge the critics of the expansion of euthanasia.
The Catholic Church and disability organizations and are among the loudest voices speaking out against the expansion of legal assisted suicide in Canada, as the federal government moves closer to making large scale changes the country’s euthanasia system system.
Along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonability foreseeable for a Canadian to qualify for medically-provided euthanasia, the government’s Bill C-7: An act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to medically-assisted death. The bill would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting by the time they actually use the medically-provided euthanasia system.
In a Nov. 9 statement filed with the federal parliament’s standing committee on justice and human rights (which was reviewing Bill C-7 after it passed second reading in the House of Commons), the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) joined with other opponents of euthanasia to question why the government is not putting more effort into improving care for Canadians rather than making it easier for Canadians to legally commit suicide.
The CCCB said in the Nov. 9 statement that Canada’s bishops are “deeply troubled and perplexed that the federal government chose not to appeal the Quebec Superior Court ‘Truchon v. Attorney General of Canada’ ruling which requires the eligibility criteria for euthanasia and assisted suicide to be expanded by removing the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion.’”
The CCCB statement continued: “The decision by the Government of Canada not to appeal the ruling of the Quebec Superior Court prompted Bill C-7. This postponed the ‘parliamentary review of … provisions (for “MAiD”) and of the state of palliative care in Canada to commence at the start of the fifth year following the day on which (the Act) receives Royal Assent,’ as had been determined in the original 2016 Act to amend the Criminal Code. This review has yet to occur, which the government had agreed would take place before introducing new amendments.”
“Palliative care, which has yet to become fully available and accessible in our own country, offers a compelling answer – the only respectful, comprehensive and ethical alternative to what the government is trying to address through the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide,” said the bishops’ statement.
“When sufficient emotional, psychological and spiritual support is lacking, individuals are not truly free to choose appropriate medical care or options and thus are led to having no other alternative than the tragic failure presented by euthanasia and assisted suicide,” said the CCCB statement signed by CCCB president Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg.
“Palliative care provides the choice of a better option which is not truly accessible to all Canadians. It alleviates pain, addresses loneliness, fear, distress, and despair in a compassionate manner through the support of family and community. This choice of care and support respects the dignity of the person and recognizes that human life has an objective and transcendent value. A human person’s life is not defined or limited by one’s illness or one’s situation in life, for each human being processes an inherent dignity from birth until natural death,” the CCCB statement said.
Among those continuing to speak out against loosening rules for medically-provided euthanasia are a group of physicians who have started a “MAiD2MAD” campaign that has attracted more than 1,000 medical supporters online.
“Medical Assistance in Dying will become Medically Administered Death, a reckless piece of legislation without adequate safeguards for the vulnerable,” Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians said in a press release through the MAiD2MAD website.
“As medical doctors, we feel compelled to voice our dismay at how individuals who have little lived experience of the realities involved in the everyday practice of medicine suddenly and fundamentally changed the nature of medicine by decriminalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide,” the doctors said in the MAiD2MAD mission statement.
“Unfortunately, our patients are the ones who suffer the most from the consequences of this ill-devised scheme. The shock of a sudden illness, or an accident resulting in disability, can lead patients into feelings of anger, depression, and guilt for requiring care – emotions that, with proper support and attention, can resolve over time,” the MAiD2MAD statement continued.
“The care and encouragement shown by physicians may be the most powerful force in overcoming despair and providing hope. Unfortunately, patients can no longer unconditionally trust their medical professional to advocate for their life when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. Suddenly, a lethal injection becomes part of a repertoire of interventions offered to end their pain and suffering.
“The reckless removal of safeguards previously deemed essential will place desperately vulnerable patients directly in harm’s way and may cost them their very lives,” the MAiD2MAD statement said.
Regardless of what happens with the proposed changes to the medically-provided euthanasia system, the CCCB is calling on all Catholics in Canada to continue to speak out in support of the sanctity of human life.
“The proposed legislation of Bill C-7 remains deeply flawed, unjust, and morally pernicious,” the CCCB said.
“The Bishops of Canada continue to call on Catholics and all people of good will to make their voices heard in opposition to this bill. Similarly, every Canadian legislator should recall that no law that permits the taking of innocent human life can ever be morally justified. Such a law would always violate the intrinsic dignity of the human person.”