Editorial: Put on the brakes

  • October 22, 2020

Religious leaders across Canada are making a valiant attempt at slowing down this speeding train called Medical Assistance in Dying, and we can only hope their appeal is not falling on entirely deaf ears.

Certainly, the open letter to all Canadians on Oct. 14 makes a compelling argument to apply some brake pressure on legislative changes that only solidifies Canada’s standing as a world leader in “death on demand.”

The federal government re-introduced its changes to assisted suicide legislation on Oct. 5, essentially creating a larger pool of people who would qualify for MAiD by, among other amendments, getting rid of the “foreseeable death” requirement and lowering the waiting period for approval. The proposed changes come in response to the Quebec Superior Court last year that ruled the assisted suicide laws were too restrictive and, thus, unconstitutional. Instead of challenging the ruling, the government scrambled to align itself with a provincial law and ignored its own promise to review the legislation after five years.

The legislation, first proposed in the spring, has been delayed multiple times, first by the pandemic crisis and then by the proroguing of Parliament last month. As the nation continues to reel under the health and economic strain of COVID-19, the politicians are chomping at the bit to pass Bill C-7 before Christmas.

“Canadians expect us to do this quickly,” says Justice Minister David Lametti, alluding to the hastily produced and flawed online survey the government conducted over a few weeks last January.

It is disconcerting to think the government is so eager to add more Canadians to the list of thousands who have already died by assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“It is our firm belief that to avoid moving too quickly toward a reality that has serious and long-lasting repercussions, we need to press hard on the pause button, and take serious stock of the impact of MAiD,” the faith leaders wote in the open letter.

Chief among the concerns is that our nation, in making death easier to attain, is failing to address the need for palliative and spiritual care of those who are experiencing extreme suffering.

“We must embrace those who suffer,” the letter says, “and offer exceptional care to those who are confronting illness and death; to deploy our expertise and resources in confronting complex cases of care, rather than choosing lethal procedures that are incompatible with the dignity of both the patient and the health-care professional.”

If there is anything this pandemic has taught us, it is that the most vulnerable among us have suffered the most, that palliative care has been inadequate, underfunded and lacking proper oversight. That is where we need stronger legislation, and quickly. Bill C-7 is the wrong legislation at the wrong time.

“Let us take this moment with careful and complete deliberation, so we can become/be a society of care, compassion and inclusion for all,” the religious leaders wrote.

Is anyone listening? We hope so.

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