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Canada’s bishops speak out against expansion of assisted suicide



John Burger - published on 12/22/20

Enabling suicide is never the answer to human suffering, Catholic leaders say.

Canada is poised to expand its assisted suicide law, and the Catholic bishops of the country are urging legislators to resist the rush to do so.

Physician-assisted suicide has been legal in Canada since 2016 and is referred to as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). 

But the law allows such a solution when death is “reasonably foreseeable,” and in 2019, a court in Quebec Province said it was unconstitutional to restrict MAiD to those facing imminent death. The court imposed a December 18 deadline for the legislature to fix the problem. 

As Voice of America explains, the law provides a 10-day waiting period before euthanasia can be administered to someone already near death. Bill C-7 now before Parliament “would eliminate that provision but add a 90-day waiting period before doctors can assist in the suicide of someone not already facing death.”

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada remain steadfastly opposed to all forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide,” says a statement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We are especially concerned by the accelerated and reckless pace in which the Government is attempting to pass Bill C-7. Despite the numerous warnings by disability organizations and physicians about the devastating consequences of Bill C-7, the truncated and flawed legislative process has overstepped legitimate democratic debate, while simply racing to meet a provincial court deadline rather than taking the time to deliberate fully the implications of Bill C-7.”

The bishops cite a recent poll conducted by the Angus Reid Group and Cardus, which found that a majority of Canadians fear that the “health care system will start to ignore long-term care and chronic disease in the elderly as MAiD becomes more available.”

“Throughout the testimonies given at both the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, it became evidently clear there is no consensus in Canada on the proposed expansion of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, despite the Government’s claim to the contrary in order to justify the passing of Bill C-7,” the bishops charge:

Equally concerning is the delayed mandated parliamentary review on the impact of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, and the state of palliative care, even though required by prior legislation. Even so, the Government remains intent on moving forward as quickly as possible to expand access to euthanasia and assisted suicide, based on its flawed and misleading online consultation conducted in January 2020 which failed to meet the standards of a scientific poll.

Enabling the suicide or the killing of another human being is “never the answer or an appropriate response to human suffering,” the bishops say in their statement. “Assisted suicide and euthanasia is never simply an autonomous act or expression of an individual’s freedom. It ultimately has a destructive impact on the common good of a community. The dangers and warning signs are evident: in order for Canadians to arrive at such a moment in our history, it has required us to depart from Common Law as well as the Hippocratic Oath and to amend the Criminal Code. These represent a seismic shift in terms of how Canadians understand what it means to be human, to alleviate suffering, and to allow the moral principles of reason to be part of the foundation of a just society.”

The statement continues that “many other Canadians” have pointed to the “grave lack of palliative care available across the country — a situation which needs to be addressed immediately.” In addition, the bishops say, there is a “growing awareness of the need to give immediate attention to provisions that encompass mental health, home care, and social services so that the living conditions of persons with disabilities or chronic/terminal illness can be improved.”

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