The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) radically opposes the Marois government’s current efforts to camouflage euthanasia – a criminal offense that falls within Federal jurisdiction – as “medical aid in dying” in an unjust bill that will bring about dramatic consequences for all Quebecers.
It is all very well to play with words, but the fact remains that killing is not caring. Let us put an end to confusing the terminology! As Dr. Yves Robert, secretary of the College of Physicians of Québec, said in L’Actualité médicale magazine (January 29, 2013): “Let’s call a spade a spade. Medical aid in dying is euthanasia”. Now, the Criminal Code of Canada defines euthanasia as murder. There is nothing humane or compassionate in killing another person.
By announcing a “right to end-of-life care” for all, the government is trying to sweeten the pill. But end-of-life care is well defined (Chapter I, Article 3, No.3) in Bill 52: “Palliative care provided to persons at the end of their lives, including terminal palliative sedation, and medical aid in dying.” The Bill, therefore, includes medical aid in dying (a euphemism for euthanasia) as part of palliative care. The “right to end-of-life care” is therefore also a right to euthanasia.
Moreover, a careful reading of the proposed regulations leaves one perplexed: for example, it will not be necessary for patients to have accepted all available treatments (Article 6) before requesting euthanasia. It will be sufficient for the patient to experience “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain which cannot be relieved in a manner the person deems tolerable” (Chapter IV, Article 26, No.4).
Let us be daring enough to objectively consider the Belgium experience of the last 10 years. In a report entitled “Ten Years of Law Enforcement in Belgium” (April 2012), the European Institute of Bioethics reports an “undeniable slippery slope” and the ineffectiveness of the Audit Committee. Thus, the annual number of reported cases of euthanasia “is constantly rising”: from 235 cases in 2003 to 1,133 cases in 2011. The report stresses that “while the text of the law decriminalizing euthanasia requires compliance with conditions meant to be very strict …, we see an undeniable slippery slope today …. Euthanasia is gradually becoming a normal and commonplace act that patients are entitled to have”. The pro-euthanasia lobby is now demanding euthanasia for children and for people with dementia.
In countries that have legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide – despite the safeguards and restrictions that have been put in place – we’ve seen increased depreciation for human life; in the name of budgetary efficiency, particularly vulnerable people have been encouraged to ask for euthanasia or to commit suicide. This danger is real and is likely to increase with the aging of our population, the rise in demand for health care services and the related costs.
We must not give anyone – especially not our doctors – the power to kill. We must keep our hospitals safe and protect the weakest and the most vulnerable among us. It is a matter of public safety, of dignity, of true compassion and solidarity. We must preserve the mutual trust that is the foundation for genuine relationships between us. The only humane response to terminal physical, psychological and existential suffering is that of palliative care, which should never incorporate euthanasia because it is a measure absolutely contrary to the philosophy of palliative care.
Christians have one more reason for defending the life of the weakest and most vulnerable. The Word of God invites them to do so: “You shall not kill” (Matthew 19:18)… “From human beings…I will require a reckoning for human life” (Genesis 9:5).
And, as an echo, we hear these words of Blessed John Paul II: “I confirm that euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person.” (Evangelium Vitae, no. 65).
Convinced of the beauty and greatness of the gift of human life—even in the sometimes difficult circumstances created by illness or disability—Christians should, nevertheless, oppose overly aggressive treatment and the maintenance of life at all costs. They know that the denial or termination of extraordinary treatments, which are not anticipated to bear the desired fruits, have nothing to do with euthanasia.
The disciples of Christ do their very best to follow their Master’s way of life, remembering always his words: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). This is why they should be at the forefront of the fight to ensure that individuals approaching the end of life have access to care filled with compassion—care which will allow them to live with dignity until their natural death.
We encourage all Quebecers opposed to the elimination of some of their fellow citizens by euthanasia to speak up in the media and to contact their elected members of the National Assembly. Expressing their opinion is not only a right, but a duty of justice.
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