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Catholic bishops condemn plan to allow euthanasia for mentally ill


smolaw11/YAY/Universal Images Gr | UIG | Science Photo Library via AFP

John Burger - published on 05/11/23

New law would close door to "any hope of recovery," prelates say in letters to Canadian government and the Catholic faithful.

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Canada’s Catholic bishops condemned a government plan to start allowing euthanasia and assisted suicide for the mentally ill and called on Ottawa to provide more funding for palliative care.

The Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on Tuesday issued both an “Open Letter to the Government of Canada” and a “Message to the Catholic Faithful” about federal legislation which, by March 17, 2024, will permit persons whose sole condition is a mental illness to end their lives. They need not be terminally ill.

“Over the years, CCCB members have consistently and repeatedly expressed their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide, which was legalized in Canada in June 2016,” the Conference said in a statement. “As predicted in 2015, subsequent amendments to the legislation have allowed for an ever-expanding list of vulnerable persons to be made eligible for euthanasia and assisted suicide, including the most recent amendment permitting those whose sole medical condition is a mental illness to access euthanasia or assisted suicide (‘Medical Aid in Dying’ or ‘MAiD’).”

The documents issued Tuesday said that “expanding access to euthanasia and assisted suicide for individuals living with a mental illness closes the door to any hope of recovery …undermines the universal and inviolable dignity of human life and harms the building up of society.”

“Referencing our common dependency on each other in varying degrees throughout life, the CCCB calls on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to allocate more resources and funding to mental healthcare as well as to palliative care,” said the Conference. “The CCCB also encourages the faithful to witness to life, to tend to and accompany the sick, to resist pressure to support or participate in ‘MAiD,’ and to pray that our lawmakers may see the harm in what they are permitting to take place.”

The bishops said it is “even more objectionable … when the government extends euthanasia/assisted suicide to individuals whose mental condition may predispose them to suicide, especially since it is known that health care across Canada is failing to provide accessible and reliable treatment for patients living with mental health challenges, including mental illnesses. To enable or assist in the suicide of these patients directly contradicts national suicide prevention strategies and reneges on our collective social responsibility to provide persons living with mental health challenges with treatment, support, and hope through therapeutic interventions.”

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