The following is an abridged version of the presentation Anastasia Bowles made last Sunday at St Clare’s, addressing a most important issue for us as Catholics….
You may have heard that Quebec is currently debating a Bill (Bill 52) which concerns “end-of-life” care. Part of the Bill also proposes to legalize “medical aid in dying” which is just a euphemism for euthanasia. Euthanasia means “putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church) The Bill—which you may never have heard of—is currently expected to pass its 3rd and final reading in a few weeks—so euthanasia will very likely be legal in one Canadian province before spring. This will, of course, create a precedent for the other provinces.
The topic of euthanasia is a very difficult one. Euthanasia is often presented as putting someone out of their misery, helping to ease their suffering or preventing needless pain. No one wants to watch someone they love writhing in pain. But the solution is not to give doctors the license to kill them. The solution is to give them the palliative care and comfort they deserve and that is available.
It is very disturbing that euthanasia will likely be legalized in Canada despite the fact that palliative care physicians—experts in end-of-life care–are opposed. The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians released the results of a survey of Society physicians, stating that they “strongly oppose the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide” and that “most of its members are unwilling to participate in euthanasia or assisted suicide.”[i] If the doctors and others who are experts in end-of-life care are strongly opposed to euthanasia and don’t want to do it, why is it being legalized? These palliative care physicians oppose euthanasia because they say that patients are not receiving the appropriate palliative care which should be made available to them and the focus should be on improving care access instead. It is estimated that only 16-30% of Canadians who die have access to appropriate palliative care.[ii] One palliative care physician in Quebec estimated that only 10-20% of Quebecers receive adequate palliative care.[iii] So most dying patients are not getting the care they need or that is available. The question is do we try to find ways to bring pain-relieving medicine and other comforts to those who need it or do we make it legal for doctors to kill them? The answer should be obvious.
There are other dangers to legalizing euthanasia. The Quebec Bill proposes a model for euthanasia based on current practices in Belgium where euthanasia is legal. Quebec promises safeguards so that abuses of the euthanasia law won’t take place. Such abuses involve euthanasia without consent and elder abuse, euthanasia of children, euthanasia for mental health reasons and so on. But Belgium has already demonstrated that once legal, abuses do take place. In 2010, the Canadian Medical Association released study results showing that 1/3rd of patients who were reportedly euthanized in Belgium (between June and November 2007) were killed without their consent. 66 of 208 of the patients did not ask to die.[iv] They were killed. The study found that those who ASKED for euthanasia tended to be younger and were often in care at home, while those who were euthanized WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT were typically over 80 and in hospital. You have to ask if euthanasia takes place because hospitals are under pressure to free up space and cut costs?
Belgium is also extending their law to include the euthanasia of children and for mental health reasons. Last year, two 45 year-old identical twins asked to be killed because they were deaf and would soon go blind. They were not terminally ill or in pain. They were disabled. Instead of receiving support and resources to convince them their lives were worth living, a Belgian doctor killed them. Such practice contradicts current suicide prevention strategies but is the model that Quebec proposes to follow, saying such abuses will never happen here. That’s what they said in Belgium too.
What can you do? First, and most importantly, PRAY. Pray for the Quebec legislators to vote against Bill 52 in the coming weeks, and pray especially for a greater respect for life in our culture from conception until its NATURAL end. Second, CARE. Care enough to get educated on these issues and to educate others. Finally, get active for LIFE. See enclosed document by LifeCanada for specific action items YOU can do to help uphold the value of life in Canada.
[i] http://www.cspcp.ca/category/euthanasia-pas/, http://www.chpca.net/news-and-events/news-item-34.aspx, http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Opinion+Palliative+care+providers+oppose+Bill+Quebec+should+listen/9022317/story.html
BILL 52 AND EUTHANASIA IN CANADA: WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- PRAY: – For Quebec Legislators to vote AGAINST Bill 52.
– For respect for life in our culture from conception until NATURAL death.
- CARE: – Educate yourself and others on the issues (Visit http://www.lifecanada.org/quebec-bill-52–the-euthanasia-bill for information or call us at 1-866-780-5433.) Donate to our efforts.
– Get active for LIFE!
- WRITE to the following to express your opposition to Bill 52 (sample letters available at lifecanda.org) NO POSTAGE REQUIRED:
To your MP:
Gordon O’Connor OR Scott Reid
House of Commons House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6 K1A 0A6
(To find your MP, visit http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseofCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC)
To the Justice Minister:
To Members of the National Assembly of Quebec:
Find addresses here: http://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/deputes/
- SIGN the petition at http://www.citizengo.org/en/1476-stop-bill-52