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April 20, 2016
Lorna Dueck

In a remarkable 90 minute press conference last week, Canada’s Justice Minister and Minister of Health gave evidence to the profound significance of opening the door to legalized killing in Canada. Our leaders told how their personal experience shapes them, as much as any citizen’s experience does, when it comes to dying. The Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke of her grandfather suffering 15 years with Alzheimer’s Disease. She interrupted law school to sit with a dying grandmother, and speaks for First Nation Canadians who see the long lasting effects of suicide as a social harm.

Minister Jane Philpott’s work as a family physician, means she had the “profound experience to sit by the side of people who slip away from the process of life – and that underscores why we need to ensure people have a good death if at all possible.  I think also of my young niece who has a neurodegenerative condition who is non verbal and many others like her who are in a vulnerable condition and societies are judged in how they provide for the most vulnerable.”

You don’t have to be a religious adherent to see this is a law of spiritual dimensions. Bill C-14 affects what it is to be human in both autonomy and community, and that is fundamentally the stuff of intangible spiritual values.

The Bill C-14 press conference gave us thoughtful leaders navigating one of the starkest mandates in a deep and respectful process. Bill C-14’s summary describes what we are facing;  

“This enactment amends the Criminal Code to, among other things, amends the criminal code to create exemptions from the offences of culpable homicide, of aiding suicide and of administering noxious things.”

Friends have urged me not to use the words killing or suicide as I write on Bill C-14, but medical aid in dying, (MAID is Canada’s new acroynym for this process) is all of that. Suicide upon request, done at the hand of a nurse, doctor, or with a take it home and do it yourself kit, or such death at the hand of a friend or family member, this will soon be legal in Canada, without fear of prosecution.     

In the few weeks we have to determine limits of Bill C-14, the battle of public opinion should be robust and we all have a responsibility to lobby our MP’s with our opinion on the debate. Conscience rights for health professionals are still not in place, regulatory rules are deemed too loose for some, and far too restrictive for others. Context TV interviewed opponents like legislation advisor Maureen Taylor who decries that advanced directives for dementia is off the table in Bill C-14 saying, “the government has gone overboard on safeguards trying to appease religious groups.” 

For the state, God is not part of this debate. But for people who believe our lives are accountable to God, our conclusions about MAID and Bill C-14 are deeply affected by our faith. Many of us fear that once we begin giving a right for some to choose an assisted death, the threshold being crossed will sweep up others. I fear the erosion of selfless care for the weak, a task that gives back a mysterious bond of love that has knit families together for centuries.

Faith-inspired Canadians should be the activists concerned that death is being delivered faster than proper palliative care in Canada, and take this time to aggressively remedy what Minister Philpott described as “very patchy access across the country.” 

Douglas Farrow, a Professor of Christian Thought at McGill University, is challenging the Church to action over Bill C-14, he writes; "Resistance that is not whole-hearted and unrelenting is doomed to failure, failure of a kind that will eventually destroy the witness of the Church and, with it, society’s last and best hope."

Our best hope as followers of God is to also remember ours is the task to shout that death is not the final frontier. Let’s take our relationships into the conversations that give meaning and God’s purpose for natural death. Death invites the hope of the heaven for which all of life has been a dress rehearsal. Bill C-14 is a deeply spiritual debate.   



Comments

I find it interesting that only comments against assisted dying have been posted so far. Until reading Tom Medlands comment I have always vigorously defended freedom of religion. If a person is governed by beliefs that keep him from seeking assisted dying it is his choice and right not to do so. If I am not governed by beliefs that stop me from seeking assisted dying then it is my choice and right to do so. I'm not forcing anyone to choose to die. I don't want anyone forcing me to live. One person's rights should not over ride another person's rights just because of a difference of religious belief.
June 3, 2016 | Maxine Cook

Thanks all for your comments, read and reflected on.
May 18, 2016 | Lorna Dueck

Unfortunately there seems to be no political will to vote the current euthanasia bill down, or to offer a strong alternative that positively reinstates the prohibition against euthanasia. We are entering the time when the culture of death reigns with the euthanizing of the sick, elderly, disabled and soon the mentally ill, the dementia patient, and the terminal child. This culture of unnatural death includes abortion. We are facing a significant moral failure as a nation, one that will lead to abuse and regret for many families, medical professionals and political leaders. This failure is as serious as the institution of slavery and will likely take as long to reverse.
May 1, 2016 | Mark Bezanson

Thank you Lorna for your wise and insightful words regarding Bill C-14. I agree we should all be concerned that access to death is moving faster than access to palliative care, for Canadians in many parts of this country. This legislation makes suicide socially acceptable and as Christians we feel ending one's own life is morally wrong. We want people to "Rest in Peace" and we know this can only happen when people leave this world having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As you mentioned, "Death is not the last frontier."
April 25, 2016 | Patsy McAuley

I cannot help but remember the abortion story as it unfolded in Canada. The initial impetus was to have local committees that would reflect the specific character and diversity of each community. Over time, the lack of a wider consensus caused the abortion law to be stuck down; abortion became just another medical procedure. 1) By focusing assisted suicide as an end of life issue, we risk making it a medical procedure. Take for example the prevalence of Caesarean section births -- in the eyes of many, births are now perceived as a medical procedure. This makes medical professionals the experts and removes the birth from its original context of the family. We must strongly resist the tendency to make suicide a medical procedure that is protected by doctor patient confidentiality. I think the proper terminology to use that of intervention (instead of medical procedure) – the criminal code should specify how family should be consulted and how authorities are to be kept informed. 2) Linking suicide to the medical profession is very problematic. Many doctors have strong objections to any involvement in assisting a suicide. Linking suicide to the medical profession is a grave assault to the profession’s ethos of caring for life. A separate category of professional should be established to help in suicides with its own code of practice and regulatory body. I think this would effectively prevent the need for doctor referrals as there would be a specific designation for the practitioner of assisted suicide. By separating the practice of medicine and assisted suicide, conflict of interest is avoided. The one giving medical care cannot be the same person doing the assisted suicide. 3) Connecting assisted suicide to quality of life criteria shift the focus away from family and caring. Therefore, there should be a team in place to help the person come to this decision. An essential component of the team must be representative(s) of palliative care, convalescent care and home/community/hospice care. As you can see, this would involve a thorough rewriting of the law.
April 23, 2016 | Louis Cote

Thanks to Ms Dueck for a very insightful article into this most difficult of issues facing our modern Canadian society. I think the crux of her arguments are in the following statement: "Faith-inspired Canadians should be the activists concerned that death is being delivered faster than proper palliative care in Canada, and take this time to aggressively remedy what Minister Philpott described as “very patchy access across the country.” As people of faith, the reality is that we are not going to win this debate. What we must do is present viable alternatives. People must have a choice (and I use that word deliberately), and that choice is fully available and funded palliative care across the country. The realities and comforts offered by palliative care need to be presented as effectively as the arguments in favour of "dying with dignity at a time of one's choosing". I spent weeks by my sister's bedside, at her home, as she died comfortably surrounded by family and supported by effective palliative care. The sad truth is that this level of care is expensive. "MAID" is cheap.
April 23, 2016 | Geoffrey Groves

Thank you for the very true statements you have made about assisted suicide and the bill that is underway. I am very concerned that the bill does not protect the rights of the vunerable or the health care professionals. We are more than just bodies dying we are spirits on a journey and the total picture is not one we are able to understand. I do not believe this an issue that shows love for the dying but for ourselves as we continue to want to pilot our own ships and do things my way. Life was not meant to be lived our way but God's way and I do not beleive we can honestly say self murder is ever right nor striking the word suicide from our vocabulary going to change the truth of what we are talking about! Life is precious and not meant to be in anyones hands but God.............that is not religious that is spiritual!
April 23, 2016 | Beverley Singbeil

Our government seems to advocate contradictory messages. When some 100 aboriginals in one community of about 2000 despair of life and attempt suicide in less than 4 months this year our government hold an emergency Parliamentary debate on this crisis and send 18 mental health professionals there to try to stop this trend. But when other Canadians despair of life and ask some health professionals to kill them before their natural death our government seek to regulate how their requests can be legally accommodated. The sanctity of human life must either be respected or not. Secularists cannot have it both ways
April 22, 2016 | Al Hiebert

I am totally against this Bill. It is the Lord who gives us our last breath, but we can hasten our death in many ways such as addiction to food, cigarettes, illegal drugs, alcohol etc. To inject someone so their heart will stop beating is murdering one's self. The Lord does not approve of killing one's self, and must be more grieved when we include another human being to help us do so. I believe it's a sin, but I'm not advocating that a Christian will go to hades if they do so, that's up to the Lord.
April 22, 2016 | Dianne Hiscox

Assisted suicide and abortion are murder. We should let God determine when it is time to die. I fear that nurses and doctors who are Christians will not have the right to refuse with a suicide. In the Bible it states"Thou Shalt not Kill!"
April 21, 2016 | Carol Gerbrandt

When Canada got its 'Bill of Rights' someone commented that eventually we would have clashes of people claiming their rights. That time has certainly come. Perhaps we have a right to assisted suicide, but do we have a right to force someone else to help us? Does that person have to be a health professional? Why not have people who want to help others die have their own category, licensed injectors of lethal poisons. Of course this battle applies in other areas, such as my right to gender exclusive public washrooms, vs. someone's claimed right to use any one they want. Or the right to say something is wrong in my opinion, without public shaming or condemnation. Social media can be intimidating, and wrong.
April 21, 2016 | Tom Meland


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